When I arrive at Hotel Classic by Venue, a staff member proffers a cold towel on a plate.
I have travelled only 20 minutes from my home in the east and it has not been a tiring journey by any means, but the gesture reminds me of soothing resort lobbies and tropical welcome drinks from a long-forgotten time.
The hotel is among a trio of boutique properties under the Venue brand, all located in Joo Chiat. They are run by home-grown company Worldwide Hotels, which runs 38 properties in Singapore.
Mr Kenneth Seah, sector manager for the Venue brand hotels, says Joo Chiat's reputation as a foodie haunt has enticed Singaporeans looking to explore new enclaves.
So it's cheap, but is it comfortable?
Hotel Classic by Venue lives up to its name, offering the quintessential hotel experience at a fraction of the price.
My Superior Room is understated and elegant - with walls, floors and a marbled headboard in neutral shades of light brown and grey. On the wall, sleek black panels control everything from the temperature to a "do not disturb" button for housekeeping.
The bathroom is shiny and sizeable, with thoughtful touches such as hand towels (the only budget hotel I reviewed to offer this) and an ample-sized ledge for toiletries. It is lovely to luxuriate under a powerful rain shower and step out to plush bath towels.
Overlooking an alley, my room is generally quiet, though I do hear muffled chatter and other guests returning to their rooms at night. Blinds keep the room so dark and cosy, I sleep in till almost noon.
Hey, isn't that the point of a staycation?
What else is there to do?
Peranakan culture abounds in Joo Chiat.
Stop by home museum The Intan at Joo Chiat Terrace, lovingly curated by Mr Alvin Yapp who has been collecting the antiques of his heritage since he was a teenager.
The shophouse is a treasure trove of furniture, beaded slippers, and a rainbow of tiffin carriers and spittoons line its staircase. Visits are by appointment only.
Learn how Peranakan kebayas and beaded shoes are made at the heritage gallery of the Rumah Kim Choo shophouse in East Coast Road and stop for a photo at Koon Seng Road, where candy-coloured Peranakan shophouses line up gaily in the sun.
You've saved on a stay, now indulge in a good meal.
Vietnamese restaurants abound. Follow the queues and you will wind up at Long Phung Vietnamese Restaurant in Joo Chiat Road, five minutes away on foot. It is the most well-known Vietnamese outlet in the area and if you are looking for a hearty bowl of pho, it will not disappoint.
But I take a gamble on Lap Vietnamese Restaurant next door, where staff and patrons converse in Vietnamese and every table seems to have ordered the same plate of garlic-fried cockles ($7).
The cockles are plump and juicy, with chunks of lard and garlic masking a slight muddy taste. And my bun thit nuong cha gio ($8), or rice noodles topped with grilled pork, fried spring rolls and a garden of herbs and greens, bursts with flavour.
A foodie friend recommends Malaysian chain You Kee XO at Joo Chiat Place, which she says is one of her favourite char siew joints.
Indeed, my first bite of the char siew noodles ($5.50) is crisp, caramelised, unctuous bliss. The noodles are springy and flavourful, but rice is best for mopping up all the bubbling, gooey sauce from the Handmade Signature Bean Curd ($8.80).
Verdict: Hidden gem or budget disaster?
Stay a night or two, especially if the east is a long trek from home. There's lots to keep you occupied and the hotel provides a comfortable base from which to see and do it all.
Hotel Classic By Venue
WHERE 12 Joo Chiat Road
INFO Venue's website
RATES Standard rooms start at $78. A Superior Room, which the writer stayed in, starts from $88 per night.
This staycation was hosted by the hotel. For more staycation reviews, go to str.sg/SuiteLife.