SINGAPORE - Quick question: how many of you love going across the Causeway for food and shopping and, in general, a fuss-free weekend getaway?
A new hotel just outside Woodlands Checkpoint could be a one-stop-shop for all your "Singaporean" needs in Johor Baru (JB).
Its convenient location doesn't come with the crowds - Grand Belllo Hotel is a five-minute drive from the bustling JB Sentral, tucked away in a quiet area opposite.
There's complimentary parking at the premises, but if you want to save all the hassle especially if you're going in a large group, you can consider booking the hotel's cross-border transport in a 10-seater for 350 ringgit (S$113) one way.
Non-driving guests can hop on the free shuttle services from the JB CIQ to get to the hotel.
The shuttle services also run between places much loved by Singaporeans such as KSL City Mall, Meldrum Night Market, and Taman Sentosa.
More lifestyle packages are being planned as the four-month-old hotel hopes to make JB's tourist attractions as accessible for its guests as possible.
For instance, it has inked a partnership with Legoland which will see a Legoland playground being built in the hotel soon. Shuttle services to the theme park could also be possible in future.
If you'd rather stay indoors, there's an interlinked restaurant and bar so you'll be perfectly "self-sustained" in your cushy environment.
The restaurant, Belllotini, serves daily breakfast buffet for guests, a la carte lunch and dinner menus, and room service.
Valentino, the bar, has everything from beer to cocktails and a selection of food from Belllotini's kitchen. There are live band performances from Wednesdays to Saturdays, while on match days there'll be live football screenings around the bar.
I got to sample a few items when I was there for a night. A few simple yet delicious dishes won me over: the hash browns, cheese sausages and nasi lemak which was complemented by a fiery sambal at the breakfast buffet, and the garlic bread and French fries at Valentino.
Accommodation-wise, Grand Belllo has 87 rooms comprising 76 basic rooms (22 garden view and 54 city view), eight family rooms and three suites. As part of the hotel's opening promotion, room rates are now going at 50 per cent off, from RM198 to RM898 (S$64 to S$289).
They're not super spacious, but the rooms are clean and well-furnished with ample amenities including an electronic safe, a mini fridge and the usual toiletries.
Those who need to cuddle a bolster to sleep may not get used to the oversized pillows which are soft and comfy but a little bulky to hug.
Currently rated 3½ stars, Grand Belllo hopes to achieve four stars when, in accordance with requirements by the Malaysian Association of Hotels, facilities like a swimming pool are completed by next year end.
This writer's trip was sponsored by Grand Belllo Hotel.