Mingle with other travellers & indulge in a staycation at 2 new Chinatown boutique hotels

PHOTO: Instagram/hotelsoloha

You won't be faulted for mistaking co-living hotel ST Signature Chinatown for a photo gallery.

Located on the second level of a conservation shophouse, the stairwell leading to it is decorated with scenes of Singapore in black-and-white, shot by award-winning lensman Edwin Koo.

There isn't a reception counter either, as it prides itself on its proprietary smart Chat-In technology with a virtual host to provide concierge services.

Guests can check themselves in as early as 24 hours before arrival. They are assigned a room number with a set of access codes.

There's also an app for guests to communicate with each other and buy tickets to tourist attractions.

Of course, if you need the help of a human, there's always one available.

ST Signature Chinatown is the first of four co-living hotels by Straits Organisation, a subsidiary of F&B player Katrina Group.

Tanjong Pagar, Little India and Bugis are the next locations.

The hotel has 40 rooms, or cabins as they are officially known.

Divided into three categories S, M and L like clothing sizes, S cabins are for single guests, M for two people and L cabins for three people with a loft sleeping area.

Ranging from six to 12 sq m, the smartly-designed cabins offer maximum space and comfort, packing in a writing desk, vanity mirror, safe box and storage space for suitcases.

None of the rooms have ensuite bathrooms - there are male and female bathrooms, and one unisex bathroom.

The latter enjoys more luxurious fittings and amenities, and makes a good Instagram photo spot.

Katrina Group's executive chairman and CEO, Alan Goh, says that unlike hostels, guests don't have to share rooms.

"They have more privacy here," he says, explaining that ST stands for short term.

Like other co-living spaces, ST Signature is designed for mingling. There's plenty of seating room, filled with chic furniture, spread across all three floors.

There's also a communal kitchen, fitted out in Miele kitchen appliances. A small edible garden supplies fresh herbs for cooking.

Some co-living spaces insist on a minimum one-week stay, but ST Signature will put you up for just one night, starting from $60.

But on average, guests stay two to four days, and are a balanced mix of European and Asian nationalities, aged 20 to 40.

Around 80 per cent are tourists while the remaining are business travellers.

Mr Goh says there are also Singaporeans who do staycations, because "they want to experience co-living."

ST Signature Chinatown

273A South Bridge Rd, stsignature.com

With a colourful bar-reception and 'party' light setting in its rooms, guests know they're checking into some fun at the new Hotel Soloha.

Right smack in the trendy Keong Saik enclave, the 45-room boutique hotel shouts urban jungle chic and tropical modernism behind its serene white and blue facade.

Designed by interior design firm Avalon Collective and architecture firm Asolidplan, the vibe is vibrant and carefree as you step up to a reception-cum-bar - it almost puts you in a disco mood with its vivid wall art and multicolour strobe lights effect.

Next to it is a communal gathering space, where fusion ramen joint Takeshi Noodle Bar takes care of hunger pangs.

The Wes Anderson-inspired eatery, which can be leased out for events, is decked out in indigo and pink velvet and rattan sofas, and terrazzo tables.

A games room on the first floor with a bespoke ping pong table continues the fun factor.

There's nothing minimalist about Hotel Soloha, with dramatic art works like the 13 m tall Spirit of the Forest by local talent Danielle Tay that dresses up the elevator shaft.

It depicts a rainforest scene complete with a lounging leopard and a parrot in mid-flight.

Room rates start from $185 for an 11 sqm space fitted with bespoke furniture and preset light settings that instantly put you in a 'party' or 'romantic' mood.

Hotel Soloha is the debut of first time hotelier Josh Hu, managing director at Aw & Sons Capital Pte Ltd, a local boutique real estate developer.

"The Keong Saik neighbourhood is a characteristically distinct destination that appeals to both residents and the international jetset," he says.

"We want to be part of the scene and contribute to its character and personality."

As for the name Soloha, Mr Hu explains that it's a portmanteau of 'so' (to a great extent) and the Hawaiian greeting 'Aloha' which has a deeper meaning of harmony and compassion.

A stay at Hotel Soloha, then, should put you on the right path.

This article was first published in The Business Times.

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