At the heart of where old Singapore meets new is the Six Senses Maxwell, a new hotel that blends in perfectly to this fascinating gateway city. Rosie Paterson paid a visit.
Singapore is a city of juxtapositions: tropical jungle meets concrete jungle. It’s a place where swatches of tower blocks sit by one of the world’s most beautiful zoos and the UNESCO World Heritage-listed Botanic Gardens. A city where some skyscrapers gleam with steel and glass while others are covered in greenery, like wisteria-clad country houses. There are crowded pavements and wooded walking trails, food markets full of hawkers around the corner from gourmet restaurants.
The Six Senses Maxwell hotel, a long and low three-storey building, fits in perfectly. African wenge hardwood floors and teak-panelled walls, a large and beautiful library that doubles as a tapas bar that wouldn’t look out of place in one of London’s members clubs. There’s a red and blue colour scheme, occasionally punctuated by a velvet tub chair or Chinese porcelain lamp. While its sister hotel, the Six Senses Duxton, is all sexy opulence — black lacquer, yellow accents and myriad staircases that try to lead you off course — the Maxwell is a lesson in well-designed constraint.
That’s not to say that it isn’t full of surprises. There’s a complimentary ice-cream stand and a herb garden. A second floor swimming pool that overlooks a series of spiral staircases that wind their way down the backs of a row of shop houses, with cleverly-designed wooden sun loungers that have been built into the decking.
There are 138 rooms, across seven categories. The majority are compact, but easy to move around in considering the restrictions inherent in working with a heritage building (this was originally a block of terraced shop houses).
The little touches — Jacques Garcia-designed peacock headboards; corn starch, biodegradable toothbrushes — don’t go amiss. Service is equally thoughtful, slick throughout and attentive — and all our requests were fulfilled without fuss. They even served up breakfast half an hour before the official start, to allow us time to eat before a speedy transfer on departure.
With so many amenities it almost seems a shame to leave, but you will anyway: the place is located in the ideal position from which to explore the whole of Singapore. But after a day spent in this perennially hot and humid city, the Maxwell’s pale, colonial-style façade and its cooling oasis within will seem all the more welcome.
Lightfoot Travel offers a 4-night trip to Singapore staying at the Six Senses Maxwell on a bed and breakfast basis from £2,710pp based on two sharing, including return flights from London and airport transfers — www.lightfoottravel.com
Food and drink
For a hotel of its size the Six Senses Maxwell boasts an eclectic mix of restaurants and bars. The aforementioned bar and tapas space is called Cook & Tras, but there’s also a brasserie, a spirits bar specialising in artisan whisky, a poolside, health-centric base and the feminine, white-walled Rose Bar… not to mention various private dining spaces.
Venture out of the hotel, however, and you’ll find a Singpore culinary institution right on the doorstep: Maxwell Hawker Market. Grab a table and reserve your seat by leaving a packet of tissues, a water bottle or something else behind (we even saw one brave soul causally leave their iPhone) as you explore the various culinary wonders, each costing just a few dollars. The Market is famous for its Chicken Rice dish; also try the Tian Tian Hainanese or Ah Tai Hainanese.
Things to do
- In the evening head to Lau Pa Sat Street — undeniably touristy, but worth it regardless. As darkness falls, the street is transformed into an outdoor dining space serving satay. Skyscrapers tower above, the whole thing is festooned in fairy lights and there are more chicken and prawn skewers than you’ll know what to do with.
- Six Senses can organise a (highly recommended) guided walking tour of the neighbourhood. Our guide was fun, enthusiastic and knowledgeable and helped us get to grips with Singapore’s different districts and complex history. The majority of temples welcome visitors, including Poh Ern Shih Buddhist Temple, the city’s first green temple, and Sri Mariamman Temple, the oldest Hindu place of worship.
- Gardens are Singapore’s ‘thing’. As well as the airport’s mesmerising butterfly garden, there’s the Botanic Gardens and world-famous Gardens by the Bay — the latter’s fantastical tree sculptures immortalised by the BBC and David Attenborough’s Planet Earth.
- Religious diversity is encouraged in Singapore and Buddhism, Christianity, Islam, Hinduism and Sikhism all feature prominently in the cultural make-up.
- Singapore is often described as the gateway to Asia. Combine your stay in the city, with one of the country’s easily accessible neighbours — learn to surf in Bali, rock climb in Vietnam’s Halong Bay or hide away at the latest private island obsession, Bawah Reserve.
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