Lloyd's Inn, Singapore
Set in a suburban street, you might first think you're in the boondocks. Then you'll realise you're five minutes' walk from Orchard Road's glitziest malls. It used to be a backpackers' dive, but tell your driver to calm down, Lloyd's Inn has been renovated and repositioned by one of the biggest names in town, FARM Architects. There's a rare tree-filled garden beside the hotel, which offers you a moment to pause in the densely populated city-state.
An alternative to Singapore's 500-room skyscrapers, there are just 34 rooms with names like the Big Garden, The Skyroom, The Patio and The Reading. The hotel is outrageously minimalist, with 1960s-style concrete walls and white interiors: sunlight, water and foliage take the place of decoration. There's a rooftop terrace where you can BYO food and drinks, with a handy ice dispenser, coffee machine and microwave. My rushed trip allowed only for a toe's dip in the pool, which is surrounded by cool lounge pods.
Loft rooms are so big in little Singapore now, for obvious reasons. You can stack the space and make that bed seem like it's floating in its own world, when, in fact, the room is only four metres wide. Yet it's all there. My room, The Business, is one of eight room types. It has a work desk, newspapers, fridge, free Wi-Fi, iron, a full-length mirror and outdoor shower shielded by lattice and greenery. From my platform bed, decked out with excellent linen and pillows, I can look out at the sky and bamboo through slim windows, and listen to the singing birds. It's ideal for one, but couples should stretch out in the Big Sky Room, which has a bath on the balcony. A few rooms sleep three.
Lloyd's has figured, quite rightly, that there are already plenty of places to eat in Singapore, so there's no food service (save the vending machine serving pot noodles and cans of tomato juice). They give you vouchers for a classic Singaporean breakfast of kaya toast and kopi (coffee) at the original Killiney Kopitiam cafe, a few minutes' walk away. The famed cafe is crazily busy with locals, but they'll fit you in fine.
If high-end shopping is your (designer) bag, the glitzy Orchard Central and Paragon malls are nearby, as is yoof-magnet Ion Orchard. The city's most beautiful shophouses are a 15-minute walk away on Emerald Hill Road: quench your thirst in one of the bars where it meets Orchard Road. The craziness of Little India and Kampong Glam are but a short subway trip away – there are three MRT stations near the hotel.
It's woefully easy to drop a bomb on your hotel room in Singapore: Lloyd's provides a more budget-friendly alternative that meets the approval of design-hungry Singaporeans.
HIGHLIGHTS Easy on the wallet, it's a small haven in a big city full of big hotels.
LOWLIGHTS Non-minimalist fans may be underwhelmed by its brutalist architecture.
The Business room costs from $210, 2 Lloyd Rd, Singapore. See lloydsinn.com.
Belinda Jackson was a guest of Lloyd's Inn.