SINGAPORE - So many staycays, so little time. What makes this hotel special?
Not exactly a hotel, the Fraser brand of serviced apartments is all about longer stays with a minimum seven-night booking. A splurge, perhaps, but one that I assume more would be willing to take up in this year of no travel.
To escape renovation works - or long-overdue cabin fever - in your own home, Frasers Hospitality has launched a new Reno-Vacation Package with promotional rates at its three properties, which include Fraser Suites Singapore in River Valley and Fraser Place Robertson Walk in Robertson Quay.
The victim of a cruel renovation plan next door that has been ongoing since August, I am volunteered for this stay. At Fraser Residence Orchard, a seven-minute walk from Ion Orchard and the group's newest in its trio of properties, I get a taste of hotel-meets-apartment living for one night.
All rooms are equipped with a kitchenette and daily housekeeping is free. The larger apartments are pet-friendly too, should you want to take your furkid along.
On Monday morning, I leave behind the rhythmic throb of drill and hammer that I have come to know so well, - it pounds in time with my headaches - and check into a Two-Bedroom Executive Terrace.
Modern and chic, the apartment is tastefully outfitted in neutral tones. The wood and marble evoke a hotel feel, as do small but consistent details like the Malin+Goetz toiletries you can find in most of the group's serviced and hotel residences.
Luxurious, yet unobtrusive enough as a canvas for residents doing longer stays to leave their own touches on this short-term home.
I note a lot of storage space thoughtfully built into the bathrooms and bedrooms, begging to be filled with my stash of skincare and clothes at home. If only I were staying for longer.
The Orchard residence was built as a condominium that never came to be. As such, design elements like discreet lift lobbies and secluded walkways lend an added sense of privacy.
It is easy to slip in and out of "home" without the forced pleasantries you sometimes feel obliged to make at a hotel lobby.
Now let's talk amenities - on a par with a hotel?
No staycation is complete without a dip in the pool. The property boasts an Olympic-sized lap pool for serious swimmers and a more relaxed wading pool complete with giant animal floats.
Pool time requires pre-booking these days. When I make my way down in the afternoon, I have the place to myself to float contentedly along on an inflatable swan.
A small on-site kitchen called The Dining Room serves breakfast daily (at an added fee for the Reno-Vacation package), which I enjoy on the charming alfresco deck.
Since this is no regular hotel, Fraser Residence Orchard organises the occasional leisure activity for its residents.
On this stay, I am treated to a personal cooking class conducted by Fraser's head chef Victor Poo. Over the circuit breaker, these classes went virtual. Residents had ingredients delivered to their doorstep before cooking along with Chef Victor on Zoom.
I am no Nigella Lawson, but contribute my talents in massaging marinated chicken breasts. The finished tom yum soup and braised ginger chicken turn out beautifully (no thanks to me) and I enjoy them in my dining room like the fancy home owner I aspire to be.
The next morning, I am up at an ungodly hour (8am) to be bent out of shape at a yoga session by the pool - another resident activity. Assistant operations manager-cum-yogi Michael Chi is patient and kind, but these virtues are lost on my inflexible body.
This stay is proving to test me at my most inept.
Is living in town all it's cracked up to be?
Like most Singaporean millennials, I dream of living in my own place on money I do not have. And an apartment in the heart of Orchard Road? Even for a night's stay, it is a glorious glimpse of my total pipe dream.
Working from this home is ace. My press event is a mere bus ride away and I even have time to grab a quick lunch at the new(ish) Shake Shack at Liat Towers.
As the property is on the main road, you might not want to crack open the balcony sliding doors or windows if you need peace and quiet to work.
At night, my guest and I down a bottle of wine on the balcony, ruminating on the past and dreaming of the future. The sheltered space with its view of the city is, we agree, the best feature of the apartment.
Over music blasting via the Smart TV in the living room, I muse out loud about how if I, too, had a balcony, I would spend all my evenings out here with friends and a good red.
But most people with balconies don't even use them often, she says. "And, anyway, you will never be able to afford such a nice one."
Jolted awake from my daydream, I proceed indoors to run myself a hot bath. The illusion was nice while it lasted.
Verdict: Bliss or miss?
In the two drilling-free days away from my home, I have never felt more at peace this year. Coming home fills me with the same wistful dread I used to get returning from a well-rested holiday.
If you can afford at least a one-bedroom apartment for your stay, I say jump on it.
And to my new neighbour who decided he simply had to have an open kitchen and re-tile three bathrooms in a pandemic, I suppose I must say thank you.
FRASER RESIDENCE ORCHARD
WHERE: 31 Paterson Road
ROOMS: 115, including studios and one- and two-bedroom apartments
RATES: Under the Reno-Vacation Package, from $158 a night for a Studio Deluxe (minimum seven nights' booking). A Two-Bedroom Executive Terrace starts at $400 a night.
HOT TIP: Make full use of the complimentary coffee machine in the lobby for quick, yummy lattes.