SINGAPORE - "Is this Singapore?" my husband's colleagues around the world ask in disbelief over Zoom as he gives them a laptop tour of the Dusit Thani Laguna Singapore's poolside area.
Dusit International's first property here has that effect on you. Unlike hotels in Sentosa which are set in lush forested plots or by the beach, this five-star hotel is flanked by the green fairways of Laguna National Golf & Resort Club's two championship golf courses.
The hotel feels private and peaceful - it helps that only 77 out of its 198 rooms are open when we check in on a Monday just before Christmas - and the occasional roar of passenger jets from nearby Changi Airport sparks joy rather than irritation (only in a Covid-19 year, perhaps).
While golf clubs such as Orchid Country Club have hotel rooms, the Dusit's stunning architecture and interiors, discreetly opulent finishings and top-notch facilities take it to the next level.
We see touches of its Thai hospitality roots, from the doorman dressed in a Thai costume who chirps a greeting of "sawadee kap", to the fresh coconuts placed in our lovely deluxe Laguna patio pool view room (a good choice if you want direct pool access).
Golfers will appreciate the luxe lodgings, which allow them to sleep a little bit longer before an early tee-off. Hotel guests who are not members of Laguna National enjoy access when they book the Stay and Play package.
My husband plays 18 holes with a couple who entrust their baby to the hotel's babysitting staff, and finds the Masters course a satisfying challenge, thanks to its many water hazards. Laguna National was the first golf club here to host American professional golfer Tiger Woods, among many other golf luminaries over the years.
I, on the other hand, am content to frolic in the main pool, all 53 glorious metres of it. Cleverly constructed with a very decent 30m lap pool area that serious swimmers will appreciate, it also has built-in social spaces (both wet and dry) for those who prefer to lounge.
Besides the main pool, there is a fun kids' pool that resembles a putting green, as well as a 32m-long relaxation pool with chic chairs where you can read a book or sunbathe without getting more than your ankles wet.
Go early to grab one of the comfy poolside cabanas because they fill up by 10am (you can reserve them for a fee of $100, which comes with $75 in food and beverage credit).
In line with the resort's wellness focus, guests have access to a well equipped DFiT gym and Devarana Wellness spa, which has seven treatment rooms.
My 90-minute Devarana Signature Massage ($220++) combines Thai, ayurvedic and shiatsu techniques with Swedish massage and aromatherapy, and while therapist Lydia's strokes are intense at times, she manages to put me in a sleepy stupor midway through and I feel rejuvenated afterwards.
As the Dusit Thani Laguna Singapore is still in its soft-launch phase, with an official opening slated for mid-year, not all its facilities are fully operational.
Its all-day dining restaurant, Greenhouse, is captivating with its forest theme and magnificent curved windows that look out onto the golf course. But only three of its five show kitchens are open when I visit - the Chinese kitchen and Mediterranean one with a pizza oven are expected to open next Monday.
The satay I have for lunch is good, but the rest of its offerings, including breakfast, are average considering you pay five-star hotel prices. Still, I am sure it will improve and Greenhouse looks set to be a go-to dining destination this year.
Also in the works are three outdoor tennis courts and a recreation room.
Laguna National organises workshops and classes for its members, and hotel guests can also sign up if space permits, paying $10 more than the price for members. I peek into a Christmas baking workshop ($69 for 21/2 hours for members) and see children happily kneading, rolling and cutting cookies.
The workshop is held in one of the Dusit's eight double-storey pavilions, each of which has its own pool. Originally planned as guest accommodation pre-Covid-19, some units are available to the public for small-scale events such as corporate retreats or wedding ceremonies.
As dusk arrives and the Dusit's curvilinear form twinkles like a spaceship against the unblocked sky, I realise that its appeal lies in its splendid isolation away from the city and the usual hotel hubs.
Driving past the dusty mega construction site of the East Coast Integrated Depot to get to the hotel is somewhat off-putting (Dusit provides shuttle buses to and from Expo MRT station and Jewel Changi Airport for those who do not drive).
But ensconced in the resort's cocoon of luxury, I feel like I am on holiday for the first time since the pandemic. If only I could keep it my little staycay secret for longer.
Three things to do
1. Make full use of the generous three-hour pool access period to enjoy the three pools, then relax in a cabana or refuel at Tee Deck, an alfresco bar and grill located poolside.
2. Tee off at Laguna National Golf & Resort Club's two acclaimed golf courses. Its renovated club facilities, from buggies with GPS to luxurious changing rooms, are impressive.
3. Join one of many activities Laguna National organises for its members, space permitting. These range from lifestyle workshops to swimming lessons.
Dusit Thani Laguna Singapore
Where: 11 Laguna Golf Green
Rates: The Discover Dusit package offers 30 per cent off the best available rate (from $650++ per room per night) plus a complimentary minibar, gym access and a care kit. Book directly for other benefits. The Stay and Play package for golfers starts from about $550++ for one or $800++ for two on weekdays, and is not available online. Call 6841-8888.
This staycation was hosted by the hotel and is part of a weekly series. For more staycation reviews, go to str.sg/SuiteLife.