LOCATING the entrance of AMOY in the border of Chinatown is something of a struggle if it’s your first time. Push past the tall, heavy doors and you won’t be immediately fronted with a hotel reception desk, but rather, an intriguing temple complex dating back to 1824.
The temple – which used to occupy the lot – is cleverly converted into an in-house museum for the hotel, and one of the most fascinating exhibits here is an intricate diorama of Chinatown in the yesteryears complete with figurines of locals going about their everyday lives.
The model sits within a stone-floored square in a dim space, embellished with curved Chinese roofs, antique chairs, and vintage sewing machines. This temple was once a stomping ground for the Hakka and Cantonese immigrants in the 1890s, and even before checking in, it’ll have you enamored.
Rooms are less reminiscent of the past but peppered with Chinese influences like the titles of each room that takes on various Chinese surnames, the pretty wash basins, and porcelain vases on the bedside table.
For two, the Double Deluxe room is a compact but comfortable space with a frosted wall separating the vanity and bathroom area from the bedroom. My favorite detail is the shophouse-style windows that look out to a tiled walkway fringed by a charming Buddhist temple.
While the hotel’s entrance might be a major throwback to a pre-independence Malaya, rooms are fitted with modern comforts including a rather plush bed, minibar (with complimentary beer and snacks), an iPhone dock, an in-room safe, a flat-screen TV, and a coffee maker.
During my stay, I spot two hand-written notes in my room from hotel staff along with a mini bottle of wine, and it’s exactly this kind of thoughtfulness that sets a boutique accommodation like AMOY apart from Singapore’s many chain properties.
Of course, you won’t be spending much time in the room when the thick of Chinatown is simply a ten-minute walk away. Therein lies the charisma of AMOY, that is its vicinity to some of the city’s best Chinese food including Maxwell Food Centre and Chinatown Complex Food Centre.
Just steps from the hotel is also China Square Central where authenticity is swapped out for comfort. You may not find the perfect plate of Hainanese chicken rice here, but in its place is a range of Japanese, Korean, and what I’m loosely calling “Western” food.
If you want to embark on a food trail of your own, Telok Ayer station is just across the road from the hotel’s in-house museum, and can easily shuttle you to some of the city’s other attractions including the ArtScience Museum and The Shoppes at Marina Bay Sands.
Once you settle into AMOY, you’ll learn that its location is quite special; while it’s very nearby most of Singapore’s attractions and all the delightful trappings of Chinatown, its surrounding area is also free from the ambush of tourists. The best of both worlds, or so they say.