SINGAPORE - I have an obsession for architecture and design, so imagine my joy when I enter the cavernous 13m lobby of Parkroyal Collection Pickering, Singapore, with its leitmotif of Balinese padi field-inspired concrete designs and biophilic architecture.
The first thing that hits you about the hotel is its interior vertical garden sprouting out of rustic, wood-lined walls.
Floor-to-ceiling blue-green glass, a type of treated glass that inhibits heat, opens up the space so that the lobby and the ground floor Lime restaurant are bathed in glorious light.
The restaurant features an open kitchen which plates up a la carte buffet offerings that include crowd-pleasers such as sushi, Irish oysters, Boston lobsters, Hainanese chicken rice and durian pengat.
The Wellness Floor on the fifth level features a massive infinity pool, with cabanas built to resemble bird cages for guests to cosy up in after a dip. There is also a glass-walled fitness centre, a jacuzzi, a 300m garden walkway for jogging and the St Gregory Spa.
How is the spa?
The Parkroyal Collection St Gregory Spa is a must for a holistic, aromatherapy-infused escape.
Its signature tui na massage and lifting and firming facials are carried out in private rooms, with some of them boasting views of the greenery lining the balconies outside. Therapies start at $150++ for a facial and $160++ for a massage.
What makes this hotel special?
When it was launched in 2013 by the Pan Pacific Hotels Group, the hotel captured attention for its architectural feat of including 15,000 sq m of greenery in a hotel that has only 7,000 sq m of total land area.
Local architects Woha's vision for the hotel has taken "green buildings" to another level.
From the main road, dense gardens with palm trees can be seen planted in curvilinear balconies that line the outside of the hotel rooms. All 367 rooms have varying views of the Central Business District as well as Clarke Quay, Hong Lim Park and Chinatown.
The green theme extends into the hotel rooms. A pair of recycling bins takes pride of place at the study desk, reminding guests to separate plastics from other waste.
What are the high points of your stay?
On the top floor is the Collection Club Lounge, which is only for guests in Collection Club rooms and suites. It provides free-flow champagne with breakfast from 7 to 10.30am, while in the evenings, there are house-pour wines, beer and cocktails from 6 to 8pm.
Pity, I am allergic to alcohol, so I decide to check out the in-room dining menu before my 4pm date with a tour guide, arranged by the hotel.
One of Parkroyal Collection Pickering's signature dishes is its Singapore Luxe-sa, not laksa. Its re-imagining of the hawker food classic is both a visual and culinary delight. It features half a succulent ruby-red Maine lobster atop a bowl of noodles steeped in rich, spicy coconut milk gravy.
Later, I meet a group of about 10 design enthusiasts for the Architectural Tour by freelance German tour guide Frederick Rettig.
He tells us that the hotel's 15,000 sq m of foliage has created a micro-climate within the development, which helps cool the entire hotel and cuts down on air-conditioning.
Solar energy is harvested at the rooftop along with rainwater, which is recycled and pumped to the water features throughout the hotel, such as ponds at the lobby level and waterfalls.
Mr Rettig's commentary on the cutting-edge architecture of the hotel and the development of Singapore as a City in Nature is enthralling, particularly for one member of the tour, Ms Alvina Quek. The experiences-based digital designer returned to Singapore for a visit last month after 30 years in Vancouver and Toronto in Canada.
"After what I have seen, Singapore is truly the New York of the East," says Ms Quek, who is in her 50s. She left Singapore at a young age and is seeing the nation with new eyes. "It has been humbling and paradigm-shifting for someone like me, who all these years thought that Singapore could not be as globally multifaceted, innovative and competitive as the Western world."
Verdict: Bliss or miss?
With ground-breaking architecture, sustainable hospitality practices and a location that is a hop, skip and a jump from Chinatown, Parkroyal Collection Pickering offers the perfect staycation to revel in the upcoming Chinese New Year festivities.
Hot tip: Lime restaurant and St Gregory Spa are usually full on weekends. If you are planning dinner at the hotel, make advance reservations a week ahead of your staycation.
St Gregory Spa sessions are usually fully booked, so try to make appointments at least two weeks in advance. Walk-in or last-minute bookings will be accepted depending on the availability of rooms.
Parkroyal Collection Pickering, Singapore
WHERE: 3 Upper Pickering Street
INFO: Parkroyal Collection Pickering's website
ROOMS: 367 rooms including 29 suites
RATES: The Yay to Staycay offer is from $200++ a night and includes 5 per cent savings for stays on weekdays and Sundays, late check-out until 4pm, for guests departing from Monday to Wednesday, and savings on F&B and spa treatments. Also, guests are treated to complimentary activities such as architecture tours on Saturdays at 4pm and yoga on Sundays at 9am.
This staycation was hosted by the hotel and is part of a weekly series. For more staycation reviews, go to str.sg/SuiteLife.