SINGAPORE - With a black-and-white facade inspired by colonial-era bungalows, Park 22 Hotel Little India stands out from the riot of colour in its vibrant surrounds.
Owner Ng Aung San, who opened the hotel in 2016, has a soft spot for the architectural style.
Vintage touches, such as rattan chairs and black-and-white photos of colonial buildings, adorn guest rooms. Watercolour paintings of shophouses and more colonial architecture by local artist Davi Beschizza, brighten up corridors.
So it's cheap, but is it comfortable?
My Observatory Room overlooks a busy street, which remains bustling till around midnight - fun for people-watching, but not so great if you are trying to get some shut-eye.
Thin walls means you will hear slamming doors or tramping down the stairs of this three-storey building. Ask for a pair of complimentary earplugs at the reception.
Rooms come with firm and soft pillows - a boon for those who need neck support for a good sleep.
Bathrooms are cramped but clean; the water is hot and pressure strong. A bottle of shampoo-cum-soap is provided, but take along your own toiletries for a more luxuriant shower.
What else is there to do?
Awash in colour, the Tan Teng Niah house is just 20m away from the hotel.
The late Chinese businessman owned several confectionery factories in Serangoon Road and a rubber smoke-house in Kerbau Road.
His two-storey bungalow built in 1900 is said to be the last remaining Chinese villa in the area. Today, it makes an effortless Instagram backdrop, though you may have to wait your turn while other Instagrammers preen and pose. Take along a tripod or a willing friend.
More colour adorns the surrounding buildings, with murals that illustrate the area's storied past.
A Ride Through Race Course Road by local artist Jaxton Su shows a horse galloping through a market - a nod to the horse-racing track once located in the area. Other murals depict traditional dancers and old tradesmen such as astrologers and dhobis, or laundry men.
When the heat gets too much, duck into the air-conditioned comfort of the Indian Heritage Centre, South-east Asia's first museum to focus on the Indian diaspora.
Artefacts such as jewellery, stone sculptures and wood carvings tell the story of early Indian pioneers in Singapore and Malaya, as well as the contributions of the Indian community. Entry is free for Singaporeans and permanent residents.
You've saved on a stay, now indulge in a good meal.
Make reservations at Meatsmith Little India,a five-minute walk away in Campbell Lane and an offshoot of the American barbecue restaurant's flagship joint in Telok Ayer. Eclectic and grungy, it serves modern Indian flavours.
Dine al fresco on a five-foot-way on the first floor. Or head upstairs for head chef Kurt Sombrero's experimental tasting menu, which was launched in July.
The tasting menu ($85 or $150 with cocktail pairings) includes a cured Spanish carabinero prawn bursting with briny flavour, atop cauliflower puree and a purple seaweed salad ($12, below). A dollop of curried granita - spicy, icy, savoury and intriguing - pulls the whole dish together.
Other highlights from the regular menu include an ikura and creme fraiche papadum ($12), which sounds absolutely strange but works, and spiced madras pork cheeks ($8), crisp as lard and even tastier paired with pickles and dipped in mustard. Vacations, after all, are meant for indulgence.
More options abound at Tekka market, including Sinhalese food from Rasa Raja Bojun and home-style prawn noodle soup from 545 Whampoa Prawn Noodles. Wash the food down with a coconut, fresh from surrounding coffee shops and produce stalls, for about $2.
Verdict: Hidden gem or budget disaster?
For the price, this cosy hotel can't be beat. While prices go up on weekends and during school holidays, the hotel will keep rates of Observatory rooms to $100 when guests book via its Facebook page, as part of the SingapoRediscovers programme.
Park 22 Hotel Little India
WHERE 60 Kerbau Road
RATES Entry-level Cosy Rooms start at $65. Larger Observatory Rooms start at $90.
This staycation was hosted by the hotel. For more staycation reviews, go to str.sg/SuiteLife.