A boutique hotel with a nod to Arabic design; rooms start at 155 Singapore dollars, or about $129, at 1.20 Singapore dollars to the United States dollar.
Occupying 10 historic two-story shophouses combined to create a hotel, this gleaming white 64-room property that opened last October is a charming, off-the-beaten-path alternative to Singapore's ubiquitous modern lodgings. Its open-air corridors give it a slightly rustic feel, and provide a rhythmic backdrop for naps when a tropical rainstorm hits. And style elements like colonial shutters and ornate carvings above doors and windows have been carefully preserved.
The Sultan is in the heart of Kampong Glam, home to Singapore's ethnic Malays and Arabs since the 1820s and one of the city's most storied and colorful neighborhoods. Arab merchants have long sold silks and other merchandise along its narrow streets; fashionable boutiques have opened in the area recently as well, making for an eclectic mix. The hotel is minutes away from the city center and financial district by car.
At 160 square feet, the basic "platform room" that my sister and I shared would have felt cramped if it hadn't been for the hotel's wise use of space. It was part illusion, part design: the high ceilings made the room feel somewhat large, and drawers beneath the "Japanese-style" platform bed offered ample storage in case the wall of closets wasn't enough. The décor, in light earth tones, was soothing. A padded headboard offered extra comfort for the "Asian queen" (or double) bed. The only drawback was the view -- once we pulled back the heavy curtain in our first-floor room, we were treated to a vista of parked cars in a narrow alley.
The bathroom featured a glass-enclosed rain shower and still had plenty of room to move around the large sink and toilet with ease. In addition to basics like body lotion, shampoo and conditioner, the hotel provided a few lovely extras like a comb and two sets of toothbrushes and toothpaste.
Wi-Fi is free in the lobby area and in the guest rooms. Although the hotel doesn't have a business center, its front desk can make photocopies and print or fax items for you. There is one restaurant on the property: La Scala, which serves breakfast, lunch and dinner. Rooftop dining -- with some seating in draped cabanas -- is available, too. And the hotel has opened the Sultan Jazz Club lounge.
Breakfast is currently included in the room price. When we stayed there this year, we had our brioche French toast with apple compote and eggs in the lobby. Even though there were just a handful of guests at breakfast, service was extremely slow -- the solitary waitress seemed unable to keep up. We had to ask for water twice (before finally getting a glass with a lipstick mark on it), and my sister was served the wrong egg dish. We had waited so long (almost half an hour) for it to arrive, we decided to just eat it. But a few months ago, the hotel switched its breakfast to a buffet-style format.
A laid-back boutique that provides a little window into the architecture of old Singapore and is also a respite from the hubbub of the country's modern city life.
Sultan Hotel, 101 Jalan Sultan; thesultan.com.sg.travel
This article originally appeared in The New York Times.