Staying at [email protected] brings to mind the time I stayed at Prince George’s Park Residences, my hostel at the National University of Singapore. Both are located in a hilly vicinity, there’s no room service, and you would have to go to a common area to watch TV. But that’s where the similarities end. Thankfully, unlike in a student hostel, guests at this “no frills, just fun” motel have en suite bathrooms, clean bedlinen, towels, housekeeping service, complimentary breakfast, air-conditioning and free optic fibre W-iFi.
Room rates start at S$130 per night, but there is a small catch to getting hotel rooms at such attractive rates in the heart of town.
Situated in Upper Wilkie Road in the Mount Sophia area, this 10-year-old inn is tucked away from view behind Plaza Singapura and can be accessed only on foot via Handy Road or by private vehicle via Mount Sophia from Selegie Road. The seven-storey motel is right in front of the lush and tranquil Mount Emily Park, which no local would ever have heard of if not for Singaporean chef Willin Low’s famous Wild Rocket @ Mount Emily restaurant.
We were invited by Cathay Organisation – the same guys who run the Cathay cineplexes and The Cathay Restaurant – for a two-night staycation at [email protected], which has just undergone a $2 million makeover. We bundled our electronic devices, some fruits, homemade granola, toiletries, bathing suits and our three-year-old son into our car and checked in on a Friday night. There are five parking lots where diners and hotel guests can park for free, on a first-come-first-served basis.
We got a twin plus room on the fifth floor and I was pleased that there was a window. I could see Plaza Singapura and other people’s windows, balconies and planters from it.
Here’s what we found inside our room:
- two single beds which were pushed together
- a small but adequate and scrupulously clean bathroom equipped with a hand soap dispenser and what appears to be a shower gel dispenser
- electronic safe
- a dressing mirror and table
- a chair
- a hair dryer
- ample wooden hangers for our clothes
- a daybed
- two wastepaper bins
- five power points
- two rolls of toilet paper
- two bottles of drinking water
- a telephone which connects only to the receptionist’s desk and other rooms
Here’s what I didn’t find inside our room:
- complimentary fruit basket
- spare blankets and pillows
- toothbrushes, toothpaste, bars of soap, shaving kit, cotton pads, cotton buds, shower cap, sewing kit and the like
- cups, glasses, toothbrush mugs
- tissue paper
- hot water kettle
- complimentary snacks, coffee, tea, cocoa
- bedroom slippers
- TV set
- a telephone which dials out of the hostel
I’m just putting all this here so that you don’t get a rude shock and will be spared of the anguish of having to trudge 15 minutes downhill to the nearest convenience store in Selegie Road to buy toiletries and all.
While there is nothing to drink inside your room except the two complimentary bottles of Dasani water, you can get coffee (dispensed from a machine) and Lipton Yellow Label tea in the common room, called VegOut Lounge on level 2. No Milo though. You can also refill your plastic Dasani bottles here. There’s also a microwave oven.
Level 2 is also where the laundry room is. There is also a cosy area where you can watch TV, make free local calls from a phone, pick up a book from the library shelf and probably have an undisturbed smoke in the alfresco area, from which you can see the entrance of Mount Emily Park and the preschool across the road.
You may be wondering if there’s a pool in this establishment and the answer is: there’s a five-inch deep square pit on level 7 which is described as a “standing pool” in the hotel paraphernalia. It’s really what it is: You can all but just stand in it. Level 7 is an open rooftop where you can get a suntan on one of the deck chairs or gaze at stars at night. Or, I don’t know, map out your trek from the hostel as the rooftop affords an aerial view of the area.
If you’re quite the walker, you can walk in the direction of Serangoon Road to Little India, a sprawling area where you can easily spend the whole day getting lost in the bustling streets, shopping at Mustafa Centre and visiting the three Hindu temples. If shopping is your thing, then head back down those steps in the direction of Orchard Road.
Now, if you don’t want to go anywhere and you just want to vegetate nearby, here are some suggestions (mostly related to food and listed in increasing distance from hostel):
- dine at Wild Rocket
- take a walk in Mount Emily Park
- go for a drink at the watering hole just next door
- sing karaoke at a nightclub in Selegie Road (warning: adult entertainment only)
- catch a Tamil or Hindi movie from Rex Cinema at 2 Mackenzie Road
- buy a guitar from Parklane Shopping Mall, 35 Selegie Road
- try pastries from Le Café at 264 Middle Road; it is said to be one of the oldest confectioneries in Singapore
- eat tau huay (sweet jellied beancurd) at Rochor Original Beancurd in Short Street
- eat your way through Sunshine Plaza, 10 Prinsep Link; there’re fried wontons, vegetarian food and a popular dim sum place
- Japanese toy vehicle collectors can drop by a shop inside Sunshine Plaza
- savour a delicately-crafted slice of cake from K.ki, a Japanese-style cake shop at #02-01, School Of The Arts in Zubir Said Drive
- browse through the adorable knickknacks at Little Drom Store, next to K.ki
- watch a movie, eat world-class dim sum and get a Starbucks coffee at The Cathay in Handy Road
- go to the National Museum of Singapore and the Singapore Art Museum in Bras Basah Road; sometimes there are really good exhibitions there and these attractions are child-friendly
We had quite a few events to attend in town on that weekend (a thing at Orchard Central, meals at The Cathay Restaurant in Handy Road, a movie at Lido) and we were quite happy to have been in the vicinity. Asher looked forward to returning to the hostel on both night sand kept making us promise that we would go for another staycation soon.
Last words: All in all, [email protected] is your hotel equivalent of a budget service provider. It provides wallet-friendly, reasonably comfortable and clean lodgings for backpackers who don’t mind hiking the extra mile to get there. Of course, if your backpack is heavy, trust me – just hail a cab from Plaza Singapura.
Address: 10A Upp Wilkie Road, Singapore 228119
Nearest MRT stations: Dhoby Ghaut and Little India