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Hotel Review: Hilton Garden Inn Singapore Serangoon (King Deluxe)

When I’d first heard that a Hilton Garden Inn would be opening in Singapore, I was rather intrigued that cheaper accommodation in the Hilton family would finally be available here. When award stays became available at 10,000 points (about US$50 value), I quickly made a reservation to check it out for myself.

(Unfortunately, award stays have since been repriced to 20,000 points closer to the opening, in case you were thinking of doing the same…)

The initial few posts in the FlyerTalk thread make a big deal of its supposedly unfavourable location – without tackling the probably racist sentiment (though there’s much to be said there) it’s worth noting that the property is located in Little India, making it easy to check out the ethnic enclave’s wares and food options. It also has many migrant workers in the area, especially over the weekend when crowds will likely make claustrophobics uncomfortable. Overall, it’s still relatively centrally located, with Little India MRT just a short walk away.

Whether these factors make it a desirable location to you or not, I leave to your personal judgement. Personally, I rather enjoyed exploring the area, something I usually don’t.

Checking in

Check in took forever (about 30min, perhaps?). I’m not sure if it was because it was still around the first week of operation, but the front desk staff didn’t seem that certain of how to navigate the system.

On the plus side, the check in area was relatively bright and cheery.

Just round the corner from the front desk was a little unmanned shop – I’m guessing you take what you want and get it charged to your room at the front desk.

 

Perhaps because of how long the process took, I got a one-class upgrade to a King Deluxe room (from the basic King Guest room) – the front desk officer was quick to remind that it was not standard policy for HGIs to give status upgrades. As far as I can tell, they aren’t really all that different – the only difference in the descriptions on the website seems to be that the Deluxe room has a racecourse view. Yay?

Even the floorplan doesn’t seem to indicate much difference in room size; I wouldn’t be surprised if the bulk of the rooms are pretty much identical (though the 16th floor rooms are supposed to come with balconies).

The Room

The room itself is nice enough, especially being a new property. Everything looked spick and span – I’d have been surprised (and displeased) if it was anything else after just a few days of operation. The bed was pretty comfortable. Approved.

Other than that, it was equipped as a mid-priced non-luxury hotel might be. Here’s complimentary bottles water (something I wish more hotels provided) and a Hilton Honors welcome card..

The room was equipped with an open closet, safe, mini-fridge and a rather basic pantry (no Nespresso machines here).

Bedroom slippers were provided, but with almost laughably thin soles.

New hotels also come with new toilets. New, clean toilets. It’s pretty functional, with a small single sink and a shower. But it was clean.

You might have noticed that I enjoy clean toilets. Hope they’re able to maintain that state of cleanliness for some years to come, at least!

A number of seating options with a small work desk, cushioned bay window and another window-side seat.

 

…also allowing you to comfortably take in that apparently deluxe racecourse view.

 

Connectivity was pretty good. Having the modern traveller in mind, the rooms come equipped with plenty of electrical points – the wall plugs even allow you to plug USB cables in directly.

Wonder what will happen as USB-C becomes more common, though?

I also appreciated how easy it was to connect personal devices via HDMI to the room TV.

Breakfast

Breakfast is complimentary for Gold/Diamond members if you select it as a MyWay benefit (as opposed to getting points for the stay). Do remember to select it before checking in, if that’s your preference.

It’s served at the poolside restaurant, so we got to check out the pool despite it not being open yet, at the time of the stay.

There’s a rather large range of food available for breakfast, especially considering that it wasn’t quite a full-service hotel. I’ll let the pictures do most of the talking, starting with the coffee machines…

Pastry selection…

Fruits and cereal…

Juices…

Indian hot food…

Noodle station (and dim sum)…

Salad and cold cuts…

Omelette station…

Pancakes, waffles and the usual wester breakfast fare…

All in all, it makes for a pretty tasty breakfast.

Other facilities

On the way out I snapped a picture of the hotel gym located on the ground floor. I can’t say I have personal experience, but it looks perfectly pleasant and functional.

Conclusion

A very respectable low/mid-range property if you don’t have any reservations about the location (personally, I don’t think you should), especially if you qualify for complimentary breakfast with Hilton Gold/Diamond.

I probably wouldn’t stay again (20,000 points is still very affordable, but I’d rather save up for other purposes), but would consider for mattress runs or recommending to foreign friends, should the need ever arise.

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Hotel review: Conrad Centennial Singapore (Executive King)

(Better late than never? This stay was done in Oct 2016, but nothing much has changed in the past few years, so until they’re done with their rejuvenation works around Jan 2018 or so, this is probably still reflective of the property!)

The Conrad Centennial Singapore has been one of my favourite staycation options for a few years now, and has always provided a consistent experience. That consistency may not necessarily have been a good thing, though, as it seems to have fallen behind its competition in recent years. For reference, the lowest price I’ve ever managed to get for the basic room is about S$300 with taxes.

New Year Getaway

When you get into the Conrad, you are greeted by this odd red sculpture. I’m not sure exactly what it is, but it looks pretty imposing.

Conrad Centennal Lobby

As a Gold member you usually just get a one-class upgrade – if you want access to the executive lounge, it’s better to book a business room (one class below executive room) to (almost) guarantee it. I’ve never been upgraded to a suite from a basic room, though perhaps it’s possible if you’re more insistent.

As a Diamond member (or if you’re in an executive room) there’s the option to check in at the lounge, which is a nice option if the lines are long. Just ask one of their staff standing in front of the check in desks. There wasn’t much of a queue when we got there, so we opted to just proceed with standard check in even though we’d been upgraded to an executive room.

The room

The bed is comfortable (firm, but not too hard). Somewhat on the high side, but once you’re up there it’s easy to stay there. Such is the nature of comfortable beds.

In the other corners of the room there’s the very typical armchair / work desk setup. Kinda old school, and not exactly that comfortable.

 

There’s also a large flatscreen TV. I don’t like that it’s recessed into built-in shelving like this – there’s no easy access to the ports and you’ll have to call for an engineer to come in to help if you want to plug in your own HDMI cables. It’s possible, but troublesome.

To be fair, they actually support connectivity via a panel below the TV, but you can tell that it was set up quite some time ago as they only have older RGB, S-Video and VGA ports (i.e. no HD capability). Beside the panel is what used to be the room’s sole accessible power socket – they’ve more recently added a second one in a bedstand drawer (this one comes with a USB port as well), but overall connectivity for electronics is definitely rather weak.

The Conrad used to give out these plush bears, pictured below in a tree they had set up around Christmas 2015 as part of a fund-raising campaign

In early 2016 they’d decided to switch to a new design, with a slimmer bear that comes in oriental and batik colouring.

So on this particular stay, I got a batik bear. Also, a complimentary hazelnut crunch cake because it was my birthday. =D

Other than the cake, the room came with the standard fruit platter and a box of four chocolates.

The bathroom is nice enough, with lots of marble tiling – it’s also starting to show its age, though. One thing to take note of is that the basic room does not come with a bathtub, so do take note of that when booking your rooms! They also provide a complimentary Conrad rubber duck, which is a nice touch.

The view from the room was really quite lovely, offering direct line of sight to the nearby Fountain of Wealth, as well as the renovated National Stadium.

Executive Lounge

Interestingly enough, executive floor benefits include complimentary pressing of up to three items. I keep forgetting to do so, but if you really wanted to maximise your freebies you can bring along some articles of clothing to be ironed.

The executive lounge is on the 31st floor and gets pretty crowded, especially when the complimentary F&B is being served.

The drinks selection is decent enough, with red, white and sparkling (also, some hard liquor not pictured to the right).

The food selection is not really all that extensive. Cheese, salads, pasta in the middle, with about three hot items at the side. You could replace dinner with it, but it’s probably not all that satisfying.

It also offers pretty good views in multiple directions. On one side you have the floating platform (pretty good for viewing fireworks, though it is an obstructed view)…

…and on the other side, you get to see the same Fountain of Wealth that was visible from my room, albeit from a higher vantage point.

Breakfast @ Oscar’s

As a Gold member you get complimentary breakfast at the restaurant, though if you have lounge access you get to choose between the lounge and the restaurant. I usually opt for the latter due the wider range of food available.

There’s really a wide range of stuff available – pastries, cheese, and cold cuts…

 

Eastern and western hot breakfast items, and also a congee station…

 

Healthy(?) dessert items – fruit and yoghurt…

And finally, the good (unhealthy) stuff – pancakes, waffles and ice cream. Mmm.

Conclusion

I’ve been staying at the Conrad for a number of years now, so I have a special fondness for it, but for its price point I find the dated furnishings and inadequate electronics support to be very disappointing. Additionally, upgrades are hard to come by here – even as a Diamond member with multiple stays under the belt, I’ve never managed to secure a suite upgrade from a basic room. Breakfast is a highlight, though!

A few years back, I’d thought that the property was very nice, but right now it’s just kinda nice, and not particularly good value for money (unless you manage to get it on sale), so I find it hard to recommend to people at the moment. Based on the previews of what’s to come, (good) changes are a-coming and I expect I’ll be back again come 2018!

Going Pokemon

So Pokemon Go recently launched in Singapore (more specifically, the Southeast Asia region) and I’ve started getting into it.

  

Which doesn’t really surprise me too much, given that I quite enjoyed Niantic’s previous game, Ingress. It, too, required walking around and interacting with pre-identified landmarks in the real-world – though the main gaming mechanic involved quite a bit of PvP action (in the form of attacking portals controlled by the opposing team). Pokemon Go allows for less competitive play in that you can just do more PvE gaming by going around collecting Pokemon, which suits me just fine!

Aside from the thrill of collecting virtual monsters, there’s also added incentive to walk around outside…

I find it really interesting to observe the groups of people playing Pokemon Go – whether individuals, couples, family or friend groups. And while some people express disbelief and disdain at all these phone-wielding Pokemon trainers walking around, I think they forget that many of these urban couch potatoes (myself included) would probably be holed up at home pursuing less active forms of leisure, without the game.

On a personal note, I’ve almost doubled my daily walking distance since the game launched (though I expect it to eventually go down again) – the increased activity can’t be a bad thing, can it? ;)