To me, Balestier Road is about lights. Not of the Vegas kind, but lamps, shades and chandeliers. And of course, bak kut teh (literally translated, ‘meat bone tea’).

But when I was invited to check out the newly-renovated Ibis Singapore Novena located at Irrawaddy Road, off Balestier Road, I decided to find out more about the neighbourhood. After all, I had spent a lot of time there because it’s my best friend’s turf. So, what else could possibly lie beneath the surface?

As a travel writer, there are two things I do when I check into a hotel: I take a walk around the area to explore. And I sniff out authentic local street food. I’ve always done that on my world travels but never at home. So with Ibis’ sweet invitation, I figured it was as good a time as any to start: Being a tourist in my own country. Being a flaneur.

In my research on Balestier, I came across a website featuring Singapore’s heritage trails. And lo and behold, the seemingly quiet and uneventful neighbourhood of Balestier has a heritage trail.

“From sugar cane plantations to shops filled with sweet and savoury delights, Balestier is an area that offers a taste of history. From tigers in the woods to temples with deep roots, Balestier Road tells a tale that spans nearly 180 years and has borne witness to Singapore’s remarkable journey from a British trading post to a modern city-state.”

That sealed it for me. I took up Ibis’ offer because I thought it would be a fun thing to do with my twin boys – explore Singapore like tourists. Also, I was told one of the unique things about this 3-star hotel is their Family Rooms – complete with triple beds!

P1030589

P1030587

One little detail I noticed about the room is its power sockets. As a seasoned traveler, you never leave home without packing a travel adaptor or two to charge your various electrical appliances.

But even as a solo traveler, there’s your phone, camera, laptop etc. What more if you travel with tech-savvy pre-teens who have their own phones and tablets? You’ll have to bring more than two travel adaptors for sure!

So it was a delight to find out that there are such power sockets (below) in Ibis’ rooms. *beams*

P1030594

The property is fairly small and cosy, with 241 rooms and basic in its amenities. So don’t expect to find a pool or tennis court. But then, it’s just 1km from Novena MRT station and two stops away from Orchard Road (shopping district), with free hotel shuttle to both.

P1030577

And if you’re wondering if they can even fit in a parking lot into this compact building, well they have – with a little ingenuity! No space for ramps? Then take the car lift up to the second floor!

P1030580

The good news is that parking is FREE for hotel guests. So if you’re from Malaysia or if you’re Singaporean considering a weekend staycation, you can drive and park here for free. For visitors, it’s S$2 an hour.

A nice spacious carpark on level 2, accessible by lift.

A nice spacious carpark on level 2, accessible by lift.

After we checked in, we immediately headed out to explore Balestier, following the heritage trail I had printed out. I later discovered you can grab a copy of the heritage trail booklet – free of charge – at the Sun Yat-Sen Museum.

I will elaborate on my Balestier heritage trail, food trail, and visit to the Sun Yat-Sen Memorial Hall in upcoming posts, so stay tuned!

When we got back in the late afternoon, the boys were happy to play games by themselves in the room, so I headed downstairs to the lobby restaurant/ bar to grab a coffee and enjoy some me-time.

P1030595

P1030685

P1030686

The hotel restaurant on the ground floor is open and airy, with floor-to-ceiling glass. It also boasts an open-concept kitchen and serves both local and international cuisine. We enjoyed complimentary breakfast during our stay there and that’s always nice when you travel with kids.

P1030704

My fav porridge which I can only find in local hotels now!

My fav porridge! I can only find in local hotels now.

P1030708

Asian fare at the breakfast buffet.

Asian fare at the breakfast buffet.

American breakfast spread.

American breakfast spread.

Continental breakfast with warm croissants.

Warm croissants!

And for a slightly healthier breakfast...

And for a slightly healthier option…

And for coffee lovers...

For the coffee lover!

The restaurant can get a little crowded at breakfast, so I’d advise you go down earlier. We didn’t have to wait for a table, but I’d prefer a quieter breakfast so that I can enjoy my coffee – the espresso is, after all, free flow.

logo-21What impressed me too is the hotel’s stand for the environment. In 2004, Ibis became the first global hotel chain to be engaged in the ISO 14001 environmental certification process. So far, 420 hotels in 18 countries have been certified ISO 14001. Apparently, the Ibis network has the largest number of certified ISO 14001 in the hotel industry.

Apart from steps taken to conserve water and energy, to sort waste etc., there is one room on every floor that’s an extra eco-friendly room (eg. recycling bins). Don’t forget to request for it if you’re a tree hugger!

The room number ends with -21, to coincide with Ibis’ 21 commitments to sustainable development, or neatly packaged as ‘Planet 21‘.

P1030689

At the end of the day, there’s nothing more relaxing than taking a hot shower and climbing into bed to upload your day’s photos. Hurray for free WIFI.

P1030692

Each room is equipped with large 32″ flatscreen TV, strategically placed in front of our triple beds. The boys and I caught our daily dose of Korean drama series in bed before heading out for dinner. Balestier is a supper haven after all.

At this point, I have to – absolutely – mention their shower. The bathroom itself is quite small and aesthetically basic. But it’s clean and modern, and comes with a basic toiletries kit for three.

P1030591

Once you step into the shower though, it’s Bliss with a capital B. The water is hot, the shower spray is powerful, and oh the aroma of the in-house soaps and shampoos… heavenly! The boys and I concur it’s the best shower experience we’ve had in a while.

P1030592

I was told by the wonderful people at Ibis Singapore Novena that I could download an Ibis Sleep Art app on my iPhone (not yet on Android), and while I sleep, create art.

I didn’t quite understand why anyone would want to do this, but I decided to try it because the iPhone app is free and I was just plain curious.

Well, this is how it works…

And so, I downloaded the app, set my alarm, and pressed ‘Start’. When I awoke, this is what I got…

My Ibis Sleep Art

My Ibis Sleep Art

If you have an iPhone, try it out. It’s really fun! I’ve done it several times since, and the artwork and colours can change. You don’t even have to stay at an Ibis hotel to create this Ibis Sleep Art – you can do it at home too! *grin*

Hotel guests are encouraged to post their Sleep Art on Ibis Singapore Novena’s Facebook page – if you’re so inclined! I didn’t though – SHY. *LOL* But I’ve checked out others’ Sleep Art and it’s actually quite fascinating.

All in all, it was a lovely staycation for the boys and me. We took time off to chillax, connect, and just be away from home for a change. The fact that the hotel is well-placed in a heritage neighbourhood and a haven for food lovers made it all the more special for us.

Stay tuned for a rundown of those adventures in my next blog entry. *wink*

IBIS SINGAPORE NOVENA

6 IRRAWADDY ROAD
329543 – SINGAPORE

*For more info, visit their website or Facebook page.

Advertisements