Review: Afond Boutique Spa, Singapore

Being pregnant is one of the most incredible, interesting, challenging and rewarding experience in a woman’s life. I am now beginning to understand this experience. If I haven’t tell you yet, well, I’m into my 7th month of pregnancy!

As my stomach gets bigger each day, my lower back tends to ache a lot and I get numerous leg cramps every night! The pain can be quite bad and no amount of pain plasters, analgesic ointment or hot water could ease the pain. Being an avid spa goer, I kept asking myself if I should go for a massage to ease my pain. I have done a lot of reading & asking around and I get some people saying it’s a no no and some saying, yes, go for it. At the end of the day, I guess checking with your obstetrician and trusting your own body will be your best judge if you should go for a pre-natal massage.

In Singapore, it seems that Javanese and Indonesian massages are the most popular type of pre and post natal massages. There are also several Malay Macik(aunties) who seem to specialise in pregnancy massage and they can even come to your home.

Not all spas or therapists have the expertise in doing prenatal and/or postnatal massage. I did some research online and finally found one that has both the necessary expertise and the availability for the massage that I badly need. I’ve decided to check out the Afond Boutique Spa.

Afond Boutique Spa
Oriental Tap and Basin

Nice spacious room
Cosy Oriental lights

Nice spacious room
Keep your clothes in this Oriental cupboard

The Afond Spa has two branches. One is located at Chinatown and the other at Holland Village. I went to the Afond Boutique Spa located at Chinatown which is located in a 3 level conservation shophouse besides the popular Maxwell market at the fringe of the historic Chinatown area.

Afond Boutique Spa has a few luxurious couple rooms and private individual rooms with attached showers. Each room is decorated with oriental furniture, ornaments and lighting. I was introduced to my assigned therapist, Susan. She led me to the 2nd floor where all the individual rooms are situated.

Initially, I was quite skeptical about prenatal massage, not sure if it will affect my baby but I know I badly needed a massage as my lower back was really aching. I left myself in the good hands of the therapist but was prepared to stop if I feel that I’m not comfortable with Susan or if I feel that the massage is not going right.

One of the differences between a normal and prenatal massage is …… the lying position! As explained by the therapist, most women find it uncomfortable to lie face down right from the start of pregnancy because of their tender and swollen breasts. And it’s impossible to lie face down on a traditional massage bed once your belly has started to grow.

On the other hand, it’s also not a good idea to lie flat on your back either, particularly once you’re past mid-pregnancy, because the weight of your uterus puts too much pressure on the veins that return blood from your legs to your heart.

For these reasons, I was asked to lie on my side with a full-length body pillow in between my legs for support. I understand that some therapists performed the massage by asking the customer to sit on a chair as well.

Afond Boutique Spa
Hang your towel here if you need to take a shower

Nice spacious room
This Oriental Screen protects your modesty when you take your shower

Nice spacious room
Dry up and change into the undies; ready for the massage

Susan is indeed is a well trained pregnancy massage therapist. She knows exactly where a pregnant woman’s sore spots are and which areas and techniques to avoid. Very soon, I was in a totally relaxed mood and enjoyed the one and half hour massage session.

What exactly is Prenatal massage? Prenatal massage shares many of the goals of regular massage, i.e. to relax tense muscles, ease sore spots and improve circulation and general body tone. But it’s also tailored specifically to the needs of pregnant women and their changing bodies. It is recommended that prenatal massage is done only after the 2nd Trimester.

Do note the following pointers for pregnancy massage:

  1. Make sure you only engage a therapist that is familiar with pregnancy massage. It is best to get a recommendation from some-one you know or check out reviews online.
  2. If at any point you feel uncomfortable, stop immediately.
  3. Once you are comfortable with a certain therapist, you should engage the same therapist for future sessions.
  4. Skip the other spa treatments – no more steam, sauna, hot pool, scrubs or foot reflexology for this interim period. Facial and hair treatment is still alright.
  5. Although I do not believe in spa packages due to the many hard-sell spas out there, I believe a short-term pregnancy massage package with a familiar spa is worth it. If you’re a busy working to-be mother, a regular massage can take some of the stress and pain off a pregnancy, so a package deal may cut some of the cost involved.

Many mothers-to-be are on the look-out for a good pregnancy masseur. I will not hesitate to recommend that you call Afond Spa for a chat to see if they are a right fit for your pregnancy massage needs.

Address:
293/293A South Bridge Rd S’pore 058837

Size of Spa: About 10 private treatment rooms with en-suite showers
Friendliness: Friendly and professional
Pricing: 1 hour massage starts at S$70. Other treatment and massage services start from that price onwards. Discount available for visits before 5pm and first-time customers.
Others: Sport, ladies and pregnancy massage are also available. No hard-sell at this spa.

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Hotel Review: Marina Mandarin, Singapore

It’s a strange feeling that I’ve traveled and chronicled sights and scene all over Asia but had no time to show the sights right in my own home – Singapore.

I’ve not been to the Esplanade, Suntec, Marina Square and Marina Bay Sands area for a long time. In fact, I’ve never even been to the Marina Bay Sands Resorts and certainly not the Esplanade area since the place has been enhanced. It’s funny that foreign friends and colleagues seem to have seen and taken photographs and know more about this area more than me!

So, it was time to make plans for a short stay-cation in that area. We chose the Marina Mandarin Hotel; both for the fact it’s one of the cheaper hotels in the area and that it has great view for photographing the surrounding area.

Welcome to Trader's Hotel
Nice spacious room and bed

Nice spacious room
Chair fit for any Chinese scholar

Nice spacious room
Spacious dressing and writing table

Beauiful singing birds at the corridor
Beautiful singing birds at the corridors

Driving to the Marina Square Shopping Mall car park wasn’t a problem. Looking for the parking area designated for the hotel wasn’t a problem. Finding the staircase leading to the hotel was a bit of a hassle. Apparently, the carpark does not lead straight to the hotel; you need to go up a staircase, come out near the hotel, go into the main entrance and then take a lift to the 5th level hotel reception area. Not quite a good idea to be lugging luggage and bags. Better to engage the valet service.

The hotel receptionist told us the rooms facing Marina Bay Sands Resorts were completely taken up. Pay more to upgrade. Bad suggestion!

We showed her our confirmation sheet that was printed direct from the hotel website. We had already paid more for a deluxe room because it faced the view we wanted and we had specified clearly we had wanted a high level, sea facing room.

After a bit of to and fro, we got the view we wanted; albeit on a low floor. Oh well, a low level sea-facing room is still better than nothing.

Corny sink design
View from the hotel lobby

Wonder how much is Evian water at the convenience store
Spacious atrium area

Many reviews rave about the view of the Twin Tower - this is my room's view
We had our high tea here

Work desk area
View from the hotel room window – what we came for

The hotel has a number of restaurants and cafes that seem to be well patronised at all hours. As locals, we know our way around and hit the Marina Square mall and the Esplanade area for our favourite food.

Towards dusk, we got ourselves busy by setting up a tripod and camera within the room for some fancy dusk and night photography. The room was just about the right angle for photographing the Marina Bay Sands resort and CBD skyline although I would have preferred to have been on a higher floor. The balcony was also a little small and odd shaped for spreading up a tripod and we had to put up the tripod within the room itself. That had to involve some shifting of furniture within the room itself as only one panel of the sliding window could be opened.

Drop off point is on a side-road; reception on the fifth level
Entrance to Marina Square Mall

Drop off point is on a side-road; reception on the fifth level
The CBD and Esplanade skyline by day

Drop off point is on a side-road; reception on the fifth level
Sunset and the early lights make nice photographs

KLCC is just next door; note Twin Tower in background
CBD area at evening dusk

The shuttle that brings hotel guests to Twin Tower
Our neighbours

Walking distance to the Twin Tower shopping mall and offices
Night fall and all the fancy lights came on

Although this is a 5-star hotel and was indeed grand in it’s hey day, the hotel does look slightly aged compared to all the fancy hotels in the area.

Other than the bad reception encounter we had, everything else was pleasant and the staff were cheerful and greeted us whenever we bumped into one. Room rate was indeed high and it did not even come with breakfast. Luckily Ya Kun is just round the corridor and we had Mee Siam and toasted bread for breakfast; much better than the usual hotel breakfast if I may say.

The hotel is busy and the restaurants, function rooms and atrium seems to be extremely busy at all times of the day despite the high prices charged in this hotel. Singapore is indeed living up to it’s reputation as a rich country.

Speaking of restaurants, we did had a unpleasant encounter at the Peach Blossom Chinese restaurant. We were at the restaurant reception and asked the restaurant manager for a Dim Sum menu. The manager did not look up from his counter and pointed us towards some menu on a table. We had a look through and decided to have Dim Sum. That was when the manager told us that Dim Sum order will close in 5 minutes. Is this guy dumb or what? Why didn’t he inform us when we inquired about Dim Sum?

The hotel has a large swimming pool, nice high tea buffet and corridors filled with nice art paintings and caged singing birds. I had a fun time listening to the birds. Apparently, they’ll not sing when I’m right below observing them but the moment I walk away, they’ll start singing. The moment I walk back, they’ll stop singing! I’ll certainly say they’re proud singing divas who know how to play the fame game.

There are indeed many, many nicer and grander hotels in the Suntec, Esplanade and Marina Square area. If you’re looking for the most economical and best positioned hotel that is with easy reach of Suntec, Esplanade, Marina Square, CBD and the Flyer, Marina Mandarin hotel certainly ranked as one of the best.

Marin Mandarin Hotel, Singapore
6 Raffles Boulevard
Marina Square
Singapore 039594

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Review: Ancient Thai Spa, Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia

I spent a recent weekend in Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia. (Read earlier article)

It was a busy weekend with many family activities but that did not stop me from making a quick run to a local Thai Spa; the Ancient Thai Spa. I had discovered this gem of a Thai Massage in my last trip to KL and it was a return visit for me.

The Ancient Thai Spa is located at one end of Jalan Alor, the famous open air food street, that is famously associated with Bukit Bintang, the ultimate KL shopping triangle. Almost every tourist that comes to Kuala Lumpur would have visited Bt Bintang or Jalan Alor as part of local culture initiation. You have not been to Kuala Lumpur if you have not been to Bukit Bintang or Jalan Alor.

The very busy Jalan Alor food street just off Bukit Bintang
The very busy Jalan Alor open air food street; just off Bukit Bintang

Open air food stalls will open in the evening
Open air food stalls will open in the evening

Ancient Thai Spa offers a quiet haven at one end of busy Jalan Alor
Ancient Thai Spa offers a quiet haven at one end of busy Jalan Alor

The spa offers private parking - where chauffeurs dropped off business executives
The spa offers private parking – where chauffeurs dropped off business executives

In fact, Bukit Bintang is lined with foot reflexology and massage shops. You cannot take two steps without being approached for massage services. While prices are generally lower, these shops are open and noisy, and not quite my cup of tea for a relaxing massage.

Hence, I was glad to discover the Ancient Thai Spa, which is clean, air-conditioned, does not hard-sell, hire only Thai massuers and offers calm and peace in the hustle and bustle of busy Bukit Bintang. Best of all, it offers authentic Thai massage services.

The receptionist is a local Malaysian Chinese and the rest of the operations are operated by Thais. Prices are a little higher than most shops along Bt Bintang but are still acceptable. Certificates proudly displayed indicate that the shop is endorsed by the Thai embassy, Malaysia Police and all the masseurs has attained at least a 2nd Thai ancient massage Certification level. You do feel relaxed in such a shop

The spacious reception areal
The spacious reception area

Multiple certifications that vouch for the skill authenticity of the shop
Multiple certifications that vouch for the skill authenticity of the shop

The foot massage area - decked in a pleasant blue
The foot massage area – decked in a pleasant blue

Private partitioned area for body massage
Private partitioned area for body massage

Body massage and foot massage are carried out by mostly middle-age male and female Thai masseurs. From their mild mannerism, lack of English skills and good massage skills, you can tell they’re not from the commercial areas of Patpong or Bangkok in Thailand but probably from the inner provinces.

It is good that you tell your masseurs if you can accept a hard massage because Thai massage from authentic masseurs trained from the ancient Wat temples can be a no-holds bar for hard cracks and twists. Not many of us can take the ultimate Thai ancient massage and it may be better to opt for Thai oil massage or request for a milder version of the massage. For me, the harder the better.

But I had to surrender too when it came to Thai foot massage. Unlike Chinese or Japanese foot massage, Thai foot massage utilises a stick to poke at the pressure points instead of only using fingers. If you cannot take the pain from normal foot massage, Thai foot massage will send you up the wall.

Again, pain is proportionate to the light and floating feeling you have on your feet after a painful foot massage, but ultimately it is up to you if you can accept the initial pain. Be warned, if you cannot take normal foot massage pain, do not try Thai foot massage!

We had both body and foot massage and ‘floated’ our way out into the busy Jalan Alor after our treatment. Just nice to hit the Jalan Alor food stalls at 6pm when they’re just starting to start up for night business. A most pleasant way to spend time in Kuala Lumpur!

Address:
One end of Jalan Alor; off Bukit Bintang

Size of Spa: About 15 partitioned treatment rooms and 15 foot massage chairs
Friendliness: Friendly and professional
Pricing: 1 hour massage starts at M$70. Other treatment and massage services start from that price onwards. Discount available for visits before 3pm.
Others: Sport, ladies and pregnancy massage are also available

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Review: Traders Hotel, Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia

A family occasion found me in Kuala Lumpur(KL) Malaysia, again, just a couple of months after my business trip there.

Well, at least this time it’s for pleasure and not work. Hence, I was free to choose my hotel and again, I check in to Tripadvisor for my choice of hotel. The top hotel consistently appearing in Tripadvisor for KL was Traders Hotel near KLCC(Kuala Lumpur Convention Centre). I decided to go along with Tripadvisor’s readers’ choice.

Most time, I find Tripadvisors’ readers to be spot-on with their choices. I had been very happy with their recommendation for my last few trips. I wasn’t quite sure about the recommendation for Trader’s Hotel though; sometimes, I find the reviews, especially the sweeping positive reviews, had raised expectations to a level that perhaps when real delivery does not meet, you become even more disappointed. It’s like waking up to find that Santa Claus does not exist.

Welcome to Trader's Hotel
Welcome to Trader’s Hotel

Nice spacious room
Nice spacious room

The disappointment started when we arrived at the driveway of the hotel. We were dropped off in a limousine driven by a relative. We thought we would get a warm reception. How wrong we were.

The bell-hop did open our car door. That was it.

No one helped me with the luggage. No one told us that the reception is on the fifth level. So, we were left dangling at the driveway lobby before self-discovering that we had to make our way to the fifth level.

The check-in reception at fifth level only had 3 counters. The queue was long; because 2 of the check-in staff were busy explaining and detailing the delights of Kuala Lumpur to check-in guests. Sure, I’m sure the hotel needs to live up to their high ranks in Tripadvisor for service beyond expectation but surely it makes more sense to pass on to concierge and guest relations to explain the delights of KL and not keep check-in guests waiting especially as some of them may had arrived after a long flight and want to be checked in quickly.

Work desk area
Work desk area – note the splotchy lights in the room

Corny sink design
Nice toilet but check out the corny sink design

Wonder how much is Evian water at the convenience store
Wonder how much is Evian water at the nearest convenience store

Many reviews rave about the view of the Twin Tower - this is my room's view
Many reviews rave about the view of the Twin Tower – this is my room’s view

During the check-in process, the check-in staff must have overheard that it was my birthday. She did not offer any greetings but we knew she overheard because that night, we found a small birthday cake in our room. Nice touch by the hotel but I remain unimpressed. Why? Because F&B delivered the cake without a cover and we were only back in the room at midnight and I wasn’t keen to eat a cake that was left exposed for 8 hours!

After checking into the room, we made a bee-way to the nearby KLCC for our family activity. We had read about the hotel’s buggy service in Tripadvisor and was looking forward to the short ride to KLCC. Again, it left us slightly disappointed as the buggy can only take 6 people at a time and the driver did not really differentiate between hotel guests and outsiders although the signboard clearly indicated it was for hotel guests only. Many in the shuttle queue were obviously not hotel guests and this can be expected when the shuttle service is situated right next to the convention centre and it’s horde of visitors!

Drop off point is on a side-road; reception on the fifth level
Drop off point is on a side-road; reception on the fifth level

KLCC is just next door; note Twin Tower in background
KLCC is just next door; note Twin Tower in background

The shuttle that brings hotel guests to Twin Tower
The shuttle that brings hotel guests to Twin Tower; if you can get a seat

Walking distance to the Twin Tower shopping mall and offices
Walking distance to the Twin Tower shopping mall and offices

I was looking forward to good food in the hotel. I found that there was only one restaurant serving standard international cafe fare. Not interested.

I asked a coat and tie staff near the cafe for recommendations for nearby restaurants. Unfortunately, we couldn’t communicate; I think he’s a Nepali and we couldn’t understand each other’s English.

Like all overworked executives, even on holidays, I had brought some reading materials. If you note in the photos, you’ll see that there are no reading lamps at the arm chair or work desk area; only splotchy ceiling lights that make reading of small text difficult. This is definitely disappointing for a hotel that is aiming for the business visitor.

One of the highlight of the hotel is the indoor sky lobby swimming pool. By night, it’s a clubbing scene by the pool and by day, it offers guests a spectacular view of the twin tower while relaxing by the pool. But it’s really an enclosed narrow pool and because it is a bar cum lounge by the pool, I found myself swimming and coming up for air and cigar smoke at the same time. I hated it!

I hope I do not sound overbearing naggy by now. The rooms are great. The hotel infrastructure is great. Everyone smile at the hotel. The hotel is definitely on par as any of the 4 and 5 stars hotels out there. But after reading so many grand reviews in Tripadvisor; I must say that I feel letdown because I was expecting more.

Maybe there are reasons for the good reviews. Like the fact that the hotel is a short walking distance to the Petronas Twin Towers. Like if you have the right facing room (we did not), you’ll get a fabulous view of the Twin Towers. Like if you’re attending a conference/exhibition at the convention centre, it’s right next door. Like if you take public transport, there’s a light rail station nearby. Like the fact that Wifi is complimentary throughout the hotel including the rooms.

Swimming by day - note the loung/bar area
Swimming pool by day – note the lounge/bar area and possible cigar smell

Clubbing scene by night - no swimming after 6pm
Clubbing scene by night – no swimming after 6pm

Night view of the Twin Tower from the Pool area
Night view of the Twin Tower from the Sky Pool area –
compensation for those without the room view

Will I recommend this hotel? I’ll say why not if you’re on a business trip or if you are attending to events at the convention centre or Twin Towers. It does have business function advantages.

If you’re a leisure traveler, I’m not sure if this is the right hotel and you should be able to get better hotels elsewhere in Kuala Lumpur that are better suited for the holiday visitor.

Traders Hotel
Kuala Lumpur City Centre

50088
Malaysia

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Review: THE RETREAT Spa & Thalasso Centre, Singapore

I spent a wonderful weekend at the Changi Village Hotel recently (see earlier article). Of course, I was aware that there was an award winning spa located in the hotel and I took the opportunity to spend time at the spa.

I have heard of THE RETREAT for sometime but has always been unable to line a visit due to a busy schedule. With my staycation at the Changi Village hotel, it was the perfect time to check out this unique spa.

I had heard of the open air jacuzzi overlooking the South China sea that is unique for this spa. Earlier reviews I have read indicate that if you book a premium package, it comes with the use of the Jacuzzi. I was not disappointed when I called and it was confirmed that a premium spa package comes with use of the Jacuzzi at Level 9 of the hotel.

Changi Village Hotel
Entrance to the 8th and 9th level rooms

Changi Village Hotel
View from the 8th level entrance

Changi Village Hotel
The ultimate 9th level outdoor Jacuzzi room

The spa is actually located at Level 1 of the hotel. Here, you are checked in and you get to use the normal treatment rooms. While the spa entrance is small, I was surprised that the interior is much larger than I thought.

The spa also offer premium packages at Level 8 and 9 which offers view out to the South China sea. At these 2 levels, you have a clear view out to the sea and can watch planes taking off and landing at the nearby Changi airport with the difference that Level 9 offers the open air Jacuzzi in addition to the view.

We were ushered to Level 9 where I had booked a facial cum oil massage package while my partner had a RETREAT signature massage. We were allocated 2 masseurs; a more mature local Chinese and a younger Malay. Both were polite, pro-active with little touches and most importantly, good masseurs.

Changi Village Hotel
The treatment room on the 8th-level; nice view but no outdoor Jacuzzi

Changi Village Hotel
Another treatment room at 8th level

Changi Village Hotel
And then, there’s the 9th level outdoor Jacuzzi room!

The treatment room at Level 9 lives up to it’s reputation. You get a large treatment room that comes complete with sofa, sound system, toilet, shower and of course, the bubbling outdoor Jacuzzi pool that looks out to the ocean.

We were given 45 minutes of bubbly time and it came with hot tea and a chocolate fondue at the side. I never had a sweet tooth for chocolate fondue but at the moment of indulging in the bubbling water, chocolate fondue seems to be the most logical thing to complete the indulgence!

All too soon the 45 minutes of Jacuzzi time was up and the masseurs made their entrance to start the massage. I’m glad to report that the skills of the masseurs were up to mark and made an excellent complement to the entire package.

Changi Village Hotel
The room is large and spacious

Changi Village Hotel
First spa I’ve been to that provide a spacious sofa in the room

Changi Village Hotel
Toilet with a nice touch

Changi Village Hotel
Shower outdoor in the buff; cleverly hidden by shrubs from any peeping eyes

Changi Village Hotel
No one on the road below would have known you’re having a Jacuzzi above

Changi Village Hotel
Watch planes take off and land from your Jacuzzi

Changi Village Hotel
Pure indulgence!

Changi Village Hotel
I certainly did not want to go home!

We changed up and made our way to Level 8 where there is a small rest area where we had ginger tea. Or we could have spent some time at the outdoor hotel pool and admire the setting sun if we had wanted to.

All in, this had been an excellent time spent in a premium spa that obviously has spent time and effort in ensuring a nice and welcoming environment for their customers as well as ensuring the skills and services provided by their masseurs are par excellent.

Of course, the Jacuzzi package at Level 9 is premium spa indulgence that most of us can only afford once in a while. Given that there are many upmarket spas that does not justify the high price they’re charging IMHO, The RETREAT is one spa that I can safely recommend when you want to spend hard-earned money for that occasional indulgence or that special occasion that we all do deserve in this hectic city life that we lead.

Address:
#01-03A, #08-01 and #09-01
1 Netheravon Road
Singapore 508502

Size of Spa: About 10 private treatment rooms spread over 3 levels
Friendliness: Friendly and professional
Pricing: 1 hour massage starts at S$90. Other treatment and massage services start from that price onwards. Special package for use of private rooms at Level 8 and 9.

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Review: Changi Village Hotel, Singapore

Changi Village has been a rustic retreat for Singaporeans for many, many years. Many Singaporeans grew up with memories of camping, chalet-holidays, BBQ, swimming, fishing, beaches, seafood and other youthful activities in this rustic North-Eastern part of Singapore.

For Singaporean men, this place holds even greater sentimental value as many of them would possibly have served National Service in the vicinity; either as recruits in Pulau Tekong, commandos in Hendon camp and others in the many airbase camps around the area.

I haven’t been to this part of Singapore for many, many years as work kept me busy and holidays usually meant a trip overseas and not to this part of Singapore. Well, recently I made a return to Changi Village by having a weekend ‘staycation’ in Changi Village hotel, which is smacked in the midst of Changi Village. I’m glad I did.

Changi Village Hotel
The colourful front facade of the Changi Village Hotel

The hotel has a nice tall lobby
The hotel has a nice tall lobby

The first impression you have of the hotel is the colourful front facade. The hotel is not tall and the colourful facade makes it blend into the low-rise buildings around the area and not stick out like a sore thumb.

The hotel has an impressive tall front lobby and check in was quick and speedy.

The hotel room though was a minor letdown as it tends to be minimalist. There was no real intent to dress up the room and while all the essential furniture and utilities were available, one tends to think that the hotel expect it’s main clientele of airport travellers(from the nearby Changi International Aiport) and weekend local holiday makers not to be spending a lot if time in the rooms.

The minimalist room
The minimalist room. Toilet in the background

Basic room furniture
Basic room furniture

The toilet looks into the bedroom
The toilet looks into the bedroom. Privacy is maintained by drawing a curtain

The room look out to the greenery outside. Some higher floor rooms has sea view.
The room look out to the greenery outside.
Some higher floor rooms has sea view.

The rooms may be bare minimum but the hotel surprisingly has a full repertoire of well-equipped facilities that a weekend or transit guest will probably find useful such as a gym, two swimming pools, a Koi pond, a 7-11 store, an award winning spa, a wine bar, a pool-side sun deck and several restaurants including local, Japanese and Italian.

I tend to agree that time at this hotel is absolutely not meant to be spent indoors; not when there are so many things to do and food to savour just minutes outside the hotel.

Two swimming pools amongst lush greenery
Two swimming pools amongst lush greenery

Italian restaurant at the rooftop that overlooks the South China sea
Italian restaurant at the rooftop that overlooks the South China sea

A Koi pond garden. Children would love feeding the Kois
A Koi pond garden. Children would love feeding the Kois

Changi Village has long known to be a food haven and it remain the case even till today. There are seafood restaurants, cafes, pubs, wine bars and cheap hawker food mere steps from the hotel. You’ll be spoil for choice!

For those looking for activities to do, fear not, for there are many to do. You can walk, cycle, jog, swim or fish by the beach, take a boat to Pulau Ubin, visit historical and war sites in the area or simply chill out and breathe in the fresh air.

Plenty of food options just around the corner
Plenty of food options just around the corner

The ever popular Pulau Ubin seafood restaurant
The ever popular Ubin seafood restaurant

Great city view from the room
Stroll, swim, cycle, fish by the beach.
Keep a look-out for suspicious immigrants and smugglers!

Visit the many historical and WWII sites around the area
Visit the many historical and WWII sites around the area

Hire a small boat to go fishing or take a boat ride to Pulau Ubin  for even more physical activities
Hire a small boat to go fishing or take a boat ride to Pulau Ubin
for even more physical activities

Will I recommend this hotel? Absolutely, especially local families who would like to spend a weekend away from the hustle and bustle of the city. Changi Village has a life of it’s own and it takes a weekend to savour the rustic Changi Village ambiance. I just wish the hotel room rate would be a bit better.

Breakfast at the hotel was a tad disappointing given that there are so many food options just outside the hotel. Because breakfast was disappointing, I did not take up the local food buffet lunch because I was sure I can get better and cheaper food outside.

Service at the hotel is generally good and I was greeted by housekeepers and maintenance workers whenever I bump into one. Thumbs up for the service.

There were a couple of things in the room that I find not quite right. Firstly, I couldn’t get the overhead rain shower to work… it shouldn’t be that complicated to work it.

The TV in the room kept advertising in-room movies but for the life of me, I couldn’t find any buttons on the TV remote control that says “Movies”. How am I supposed to watch movies then?

The room comes with free internet but only the wired version. No wireless is available which is surprising in today’s world of iPhones and iPads and especially also since a good portion of the guests in this hotel are savvy world travellers.

Then again, the inconveniences are minor and it wouldn’t be real problems if you are not in the room most of the time. Which is what staying in this hotel is all about – not staying in the rooms!

CHANGI VILLAGE HOTEL
1 Netheravon Road
Singapore 508502

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I’m sorry!

I'm sorry
I’m sorry

This blog has been around since Year 2007. Last week, I tried to upgrade to the latest WordPress version to be up to date. For a few days, everything was alright and then my blog suddenly disappeared from the world wide web!

Imagine, all my blood and soul reviews for the last 3 years all gone! Just like that.

It took me a long time, including many desperate calls to my web host, before I managed to get the blog back. It then slowed to a crawl, readers comments went missing and started sending out emails on it’s own (My apologies to readers who have subscribed to this blog; you may have been getting email updates again and again).

After another round of hair pulling troubleshooting, the blog is finally behaving well again. If you have been trying to read this blog for the last 1 week and could not, now you know why.

Looks like everything is alright for the moment.

If you cannot come in next week or start getting weird email updates again… let’s just say I’m so very keen to update this blog to the latest WordPress version… so watch out!

Pix credit: www.samplestuff.com

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Review: Studio M Hotel, Singapore

A recent home renovation project gave me the excuse to check into a local hotel for a couple of days recently. I did some research online and as well as a friend’s recommendation made me decided to check out The Studio M Hotel near the Merchant Court area.

It helped that S$185++ per night was a relatively good price considering the expensive hotel room rates in Singapore especially in the city area. I was also piqued by the hotel’s claim to be offering a 2-level loft room for each guest.

The Studio M hotel
The Studio M hotel

Great city view from the room
Great city view from the room

First impression is that the hotel has a small and limited carpark. You are likely not to have a parking lot if you arrive late at the hotel although the hotel is good enough to offer a cash-back if you had to park elsewhere.

The lobby and ambiance of the hotel of the hotel feels nice. You can tell it’s not a high-end hotel, more like a high-end economy hotel, but the simple yet tastefully done decor and layout more than compensate.

First impression of the room is interesting as this is the first loft-designed room I have ever stayed in. You do get a ‘2nd floor’ built within a room and your bed is located on the 2nd level overlooking your ‘living room’.

It looks cool and zen-like and remind one very much of the shoe-box apartments of Japan. In fact, there seem to be many touches of Japanese-influenced interior design at work here.

Great city view from the room
View from top of loft

Great city view from the room
Nice concept but not exactly safe for children or older folks

Great city view from the room
The bed and TV are on the upper loft

Great city view from the room
The sink and coffee corner

The room does indeed looks cool – that is – until the impracticality sets in, literally with a few bumps on the head and knocks on the legs. Let’s start with the toilet.

Think of an airplane toilet and you’ll get what I mean. I enjoy my morning toilet with a magazine but you literally cannot do it here because you need to sit up straight on the bowl. There is literally no space to stretch to hold out a magazine. I pity the larger sized Caucasians who must have a struggle just to wipe their backside!

The sink is located in the living room due to space constraints. Your clothes are lined out for all to see because there is no cupboard or even curtain for the simple rack that serves as a ‘clothing cupboard’.

The toughest part is the bed on the 2nd level. I must reprimand the architect or designer who decided that half of the ceiling above the bed is a dropped ceiling painted in the same colour. I hate going to bed because I bumped into the ceiling more than once! How can anyone design a ceiling with 2 different heights above a bed is beyond my comprehension…

However, to watch TV, you have to be in bed because the TV is located on the 2nd level. Hence, I spent most of my time outside the room.

Great city view from the room
The tightest toilet space ever

Great city view from the room
Roll right and hit the wall or stand up and hit the ceiling!

Great city view from the room
Cracked walls: Shoddy building and maintenance work for a new hotel

The hotel has a nice lap pool, fitness centre and cafe on the 2nd level. The open air, wooden planks, chill-out seats and spacious layout compensated for the claustrophobic effect of the rooms and I was not surprised it seems popular all the time.

Food is served here as well as a cafe on the ground level. Disappointingly, all food served are Western and you cannot find a single local item on the menus. Luckily, the hotel is located in an area where there are many eateries and restaurants, and food was not really an issue.

The hotel seems popular with locals and it is obvious that many are here on stay-cations. However, I will not recommend this hotel for young children or older folks due to the small rooms and the steep stairs they need to climb just to get into bed.

There was a single long queue waiting to check out at the same time as myself. I was shocked to see a Western couple going to a staff at the other end of the counter and that the staff served them!

Will I recommend this hotel? I doubt very much if I will because once you get past the novelty value of staying in a loft-room, the impracticality of staying in such a room makes you yearn for the boring but familiar and practical layout of a typical hotel room.

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Even babies need a massage: Learn Baby Massage

I wanted a different kind of present when my best friend had a new-born baby. I wasn’t keen on yet another baby’s toy, clothes or food. I’m sure everyone else will be buying the same kind of presents.

I remember watching a TV show once which showed masseurs/nurses that specialises in massaging new born and teaching new mothers and even fathers on massage techniques for their babies. It is said to be soothing and therapeutic for babies; especially for ‘angry’ babies that seem to cry more than usual.

After all, if massages work for adults like us, I’m sure it works for babies as well. I knew this is something I’ll want to get for my friend especially since she’s a nervous first-time mother. Some googling and research lead to the following article:

“The first few months of having a new baby in the home can be a daunting experience. This is especially true when, despite feeding, changing and making baby comfortable, he/she continues to scream. You start to feel you’re a useless Mother, and can’t understand what you’re doing wrong.

One of the most likely causes of baby’s distress is a condition known as baby colic. Although it’s not a serious condition, it can cause you and your baby many months of misery and sleepless nights.

Be assured this is not uncommon in young babies, and there is a way to help alleviate this miserable problem.

Baby massage has proved to be an excellent method of reducing baby’s distress and creating a calm and relaxed atmosphere for both mother and infant.

Firstly, you must establish that there isn’t a health problem. Once this has been confirmed, then baby massage can make a tremendous difference to you and your family. It can help you and your partner to form a close bond with baby whilst at the same time easing baby’s discomfort.

A downloadable baby massage DVD will help you to learn the best way to get started in the comfort of your own home. Regular massaging will gradually help to calm baby’s symptoms and bring some semblance of order to your household.

This professionally produced video re-creates the baby massage class in the comfort of your own home – enabling you to follow along at the best time for your and your baby and make massage part of your routine together.

Independent midwives Joanna Parkinson and Katie Wainwright commented “we definitely would recommend these products to our new Mums…they offer clear instructions on how to perform baby massage safely”.

Baby’s early months need not become a nightmare. Baby massage can make sure of that, so start learning it today. You can quickly and easily download your DVD here!

Well, I’m sure my friend will be glad to receive this giftpack consisting of instructional DVDs on how to massage babies. Maybe I can get her to do a review of the DVDs…

If you are interested in a similar baby massage DVD for your friend, colleague or yourself, go to their website to buy or download a copy.

Happy baby massaging!

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Review: The Joy Spa, Singapore

The area around Mohammad Sultan Road, UE Square and Merchant Court in Singapore has become a Yuppie hang-out for gourmet food, coffee, wine and entertainment. I like this place for it’s wholesome but comprehensive availability for good food and drinks. It has become a hang-out of sort for me and friends recently.

Sometimes, after a night of food and wine, we seek the solace of a good massage place to relax before making our way home. This has always been a problem because most massage and spa establishments in Singapore normally accept customers up till 9pm only. Unlike Hong Kong, Taiwan or China, where such establishments open up to the wee hours of the night, it’s tough luck scenario for Singapore.

Recently, an article appeared on the newspaper, Straits Times, that said “Midnight Pampering” (ST, dated May 15th, 2011), and alerted me to possible late nights massage retreats. One such establishment mentioned, The Joy Spa, is located right in Merchant Court itself!

After a usual weekend dinner and drink in that area, my girlfriends and I wanted a foot massage badly (after a long and hectic work week) and we remembered the article that appeared on Straits Times. Off we go hunting.

The Joy Spa is located at Robertson Walk, a location which is closed to a lot of expatriates living there. The decor of the spa is tastefully done, nothing elaborate but simple, cosy and soothing.  At The Joy Spa, it’s really a head to toe one-stop provider.  You can opt for Foot Massage, Body Massage, Manicure or Pedicure, Facial Treatment and Body Treatment.

Neat recliner massage chairs
Neat recliner massage chairs

The Holy Land
All chairs face inward for privacy and peace from the hustle and bustle outside

We were lucky and managed to get a 3 slots at the same time at The Joy Spa.  We were glad because it was already past 9.30pm.

There are 8 recliner chairs for foot massage, 2 chairs for body/shoulder massage, 3 chairs for manicure/pedicure, 4 single rooms & 1 couple room for body massage.

Good thing about this place is, all the massage chairs faced inward to their interior decor (smart thinking), otherwise, it will be very disrupting as the shop is located just outside a noisy restaurant/wine bar. Due to good sound insulation, you cannot hear the noise outside till you open the main door and walk out.

Neat recliner massage chairs
The place was heavy into dim lights and mood lighting

Neat recliner massage chairs
Throw in some billowing smoke

Neat recliner massage chairs
Don’t forget the Zen stones too!”

We had 3 ‘Uncle’ therapists who did the foot massage for us.  We started off with a 10 mins herbal foot soak followed by a 60 mins foot massage. Ginger tea were served while we were soaking our foot. Skills wise, all were a thumbs up.

From their skills, we could tell that they were experienced therapists.  One of my girlfriend has even confirmed that she will be back one week before our 60 mins sessions were up!  We had a good chat with the therapists and found out that this shop has been opened for more than one year.  Very soon, our sessions were over and the therapists used hot towel to clean our foot.

“Your Joyful Moments of Peace, Wellness & Beauty begins here.”  This is the tagline on the brochure I picked up from The Joy Spa.

True enough, we left the shop feeling Recharge and Refresh.  Time for a good sleep!

Note: The shop opens till midnight NOT 3 am as stated in the ST article due to lack of therapists.

Size of Spa: About 5 private rooms and 8 public chairs
Friendliness: Friendly
Pricing: 1 hour foot massage starts at S$60. Other treatment and massage services start from that price onwards.

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