[Accommodation Review] – Raffles Hotel (1-Bedroom Presidential Suite), Singapore (28 – 30 Aug 20)

Location

The renowned Raffles Hotel Singapore is an iconic hotel in Singapore. Opened in 1887, Raffles Singapore is one of the few remaining 19th-century hotels in the world. The low rise hotel is located in the heart of Singapore, within walking distance to the business and civic district. Raffles Hotel Singapore is within walking distance to several attractions such the Merlion Park, Esplanade Theatres, Gardens By the Bay and Marina Bay Sands. There are several shopping malls within 5 mins walk from Raffles Hotel Singapore.  Raffles City Shopping Centre, Bugis Junction and Suntec City are a stone’s throw away from the hotel.  Other than the shopping malls, there is no lack of eateries to suit all budgets within and nearby the hotel. There are also several 24-hour convenient shops across the street from Raffles Hotel Singapore. Raffles Hotel Singapore is very well connected by buses and the MRT subway system in Singapore, making it an excellent base to explore the country.

Raffles Hotel Singapore was renovated and reopened in 2019, bringing a refreshing new life to the hotel. The hotel reopened in Aug 2020 with some very good staycation deals after two months of government efforts to curb the COVID-19 in Singapore. The hotel is offering 1-for-1 night stay, coupled with daily breakfast and a $100 dining credit, making a staycation in Raffles Hotel Singapore affordable.

Raffles Hotel Singapore Facade

The Presidential Suite – Sarkies Suite

I originally booked a 1-bedroom Residence Suite and was pleasantly surprised to learn that I was upgraded to the epitome of luxury, the 1-bedroom Presidential Suite. The Presidential Suite is named as The Sarkies Suite after the original owners of Raffles Hotel Singapore and is the one of the two 1-bedroom Presidential Suite in Raffles Hotel Singapore. The 1-bedroom Presidential Suite located in the Main Building, overlooking the tranquil Palm Court and Raffles Hotel’s legendary porte-cochère. The 1-bedroom Presidential Suite in Raffles Hotel as a massive floor area of 260m² spreading across a foyer, parlour, dining room, bedroom, dressing area, balcony and pantry.

The public area outside the Presidential Suite is mostly empty during my stay at the Sarkies Suite, feels like having additional private space outside the suite

The Foyer

I was ushered by one of the staffs at the main entrance of Raffles Hotel Singapore directly to the Presidential Suite for an in-suite check-in. The main door to the suite opens the foyer decked in a black and dark grey colour theme. The foyer, furnished with a green table and a white couch, is where guests changed into their in-suite slippers. The dark-themed foyer coupled with the chandelier gave me a preview of how posh the Presidential Suite will be. Three large window planes let in natural lighting and allow residents of the suite to lookout into Raffles Hotel’s porte-cochère.

The dark colour themed Foyer gives the entrance a sense of classiness
View of the Raffles Hotel Singapore’s porte-cochère from the Foyer
Old school switches furnished in gold plating in the Foyer

Powder Room

From the foyer, the black and dark grey colour theme extends to a small corridor that leads to the Parlour of the suite. There are two doors along this corridor with the door closest to the foyer leading to the Power Room. The dark colour theme from the Foyer extends into the Powder Room, matched with a couple of wall-mounted lightings plated in gold, making this small space an elegant feel. The fore part of the Powder Room is furnished with a large mirror and a marble sink as well as a wooden round side table where the hotel places a box of tissue on. Further into the Powder Room is another door that leads to a toilet equipped with bidet function. Despite the dark theme, the Powder Room is very well lited and does not feel claustrophobic. 

The Powder Room has another toilet further in
Bidet controls in the Powder Room

Pantry

The door next to Powder Room along the corridor that ushers residents into the Parlour lead to the in-suite Pantry. The Pantry is equipped with some kitchen facilities such as a full-size fridge, dual kitchen sink, electric kettle and a microwave oven. The Pantry even has its own wine fridge. Raffles Hotel Singapore provides a full set of crockery, with cups and various wine glasses in this pantry. The pantry is also fitted with a Nespresso machine for guests to enjoy with the complimentary Nespresso capsules and tea. There is another door in the Pantry for butlers to gain access into the Presidential Suite to serve its residents’ in-room dining.

Dressing Room

The third door along this corridor opens into the Dressing room, which essentially is a walk-in wardrobe. Furnished with open cabinets and open shelving space, the Dressing Room is meant for residents of the Presidential Suite to hang their coats and jackets. This space also provides an additional storage area for guests to hang their clothes and stow away their luggage. There is another entrance into the dressing room from the other corridor that leads to the Bedroom.

The Dressing Room is an additional space for residents of the Presidential Suite to hang their clothing

The Parlour

At the end of the short dark-themed corridor, residents of the Presidential Suite is ushered into a bright, elegant and spacious Parlour, decked out in yellow lighting. The Parlour in the Presidential Suite occupies a bulk of real estate in the entire suite. The high ceiling in the Parlour makes the already expansive living room feels even bigger. In the centre of the Parlour is a pair of black with gold patterned five-seater couch, placed to face each complimented with a large black marble coffee table. This placement makes the Parlour an ideal place for residents of the Presidential Suite to entertain their guests. The addition of a cushioned stool comfortable enough to sit three beside the pair of five-seater couch allows residents of the Presidential Suite to entertain more guests. Placed near a couple of pillars in the Parlour is a pair of white and brown cosy armchairs with a coffee table in between. I find the placement of these armchairs an excellent spot for residents to read one of the books on the shelf or one of the literature Raffles Hotel Singapore places on the coffee table.

Another view of the Parlour in the Presidential Suite in Raffles Hotel Singapore
The Parlour in the Presidential Suite from the entrance corridor
The two armchairs in the Parlour before the Dining Area
Even the chandeliers in the Parlour and the Dining Area of the Presidential Suite in Raffles Hotel Singapore looks like a piece of artwork

A pair of large wall cabinets quietly sits on either side of the 55″ TV in the Parlour, facing the couch area. Rather than leaving them empty, Raffles Hotel Singapore furnishes these cabinets with books, antiques and art pieces, making the vast Parlour appear less empty. These cabinets serve more as a decoration than functional. The 55″ TV appears a tad small due to the large space in the Parlour, especially when viewed from the couch facing it. Walking into the Parlour feels like walking into an art exhibition hall. Raffles Hotel Singapore adorned the Parlour of the Presidential Suite with numerous art pieces and antiques, exuding a heavy sense of luxury. 

There is a 55″ TV and a pair of wall cabinets in the parlour of the Presidential Suite
Shelving with some antiques in the Parlour

A work desk can be found behind the black five-seater couches furthest from the TV. The wooden work desk is of a good size, allowing guests in the Presidential Suite to do some decent work. USB and HDMI inputs are tucked underneath a removable wooden panel on the desk. There are, however, insufficient power outlets on the desk. Guests wanting to keep their laptops charged can use the power outlet on the wall behind the desk. Guests can connect their laptops wirelessly to the TV in the Parlour via a touch of a button on the tablet.

Work desk in the Parlour of the Presidential Suite

Dining Area

There is a sizeable space dedicated to the Dining Area in the Presidential Suite tucked in the corner of the Parlour furthest from the main entrance. The Dining Area is delineated by a pair of pillars and a couple of screens. The size in the Dining Area is large enough for Raffles Hotel Singapore to furnish with an elongated wooden dining table that comfortably sits 12 diners. There is space for guests to move around and mingle before dining in this area, and even space for the hotel to place two additional dining chairs. The elegance of the Presidential Suite extends into the Dining Area. Raffles Hotel Singapore decorated this area with the same chandelier like the one in the Parlour. A large painting hanging on the wall brought colour to the Dining Area. A frosted large mirror hangs on the other wall also contributes to the elegance of the Dining Area and at the same time, makes the area appear bigger.

The large dining table in the Presidential Suite that sits 12 pax

Bedroom

The Bedroom in the Presidential Suite is tucked in one corner of the suite, accessed via another corridor parallel to the one where residents enter the suite from. In the centre of the Bedroom is a two posture King Bed placed in front of a brass wall feature, which enhances the elegance of the Bedroom. The two posture bedding in the bedroom is a great choice as it does not block my view of the TV when lying on the bed. The mattress on the King Bed is firm and comfortable, provided me with a great night’s sleep. There are four pillows on the King bed, which are too soft for my liking. Raffles Hotel Singapore does provide its residents with a pillow menu, as stated on its website. However, this pillow menu is nowhere to be found in the Suite. I had to call the butler to ask for a firmer pillow. A pair of side tables with identical large bedside lamps are placed on both sides of the King bed, providing additional storage space for residents of the Presidential Suite. I like the design of hiding the charging ports in the top drawer, as it does not make the Bedroom look too messy. Residents, however, need to leave the drawer open when charging their lifestyle devices on the bedside tables. A pair of reading lights, providing residents with extra illumination, are also found on the headboard of the King bed.

The King Bed in the Bedroom

The space in the Bedroom is large enough for Raffles Hotel Singapore to place a comfortable three-seater couch and a coffee table in front of the King Bed, facing the 55″ TV with a Bang & Olufsen soundbar tucked in one corner of the Bedroom. Despite the addition of the couch and coffee table, there is ample space for residents of the Presidential Suite to move around in the Bedroom. The placement of the TV in one corner of the Bedroom allows residents to be able to watch TV on the King bed and having an unobstructed view of the courtyard through one of the four large window planes in this part of the Bedroom at the same time. A table is found next to the entrance to the Bedroom, which the top part can be flipped open to expose a mirror. The design of this table so flexible that residents can choose to use it as a dressing table or another table to place their stuff on.

The large window planes in the Bedroom allows residents to lookout into the courtyard

The feature wall that the King Bed is placed by doubles up as an open concept wardrobe at the back. The wardrobe has plenty of space for guests to hang their clothing on both ends of the wardrobe as well as to store smaller clothing items. One side of the hanging wardrobe is installed with six drawers for guests to store away smaller clothing items. In the centre of the wardrobe is another six open cabinet shelving. This is where the in-suite safe can be found. There are spaces at the wardrobe for guests to put away their luggage if they choose not to store it in the dressing area.

Open wardrobe behind the King Bed

Bathroom

The main Bathroom in the Presidential Suite can only be accessed from the Bedroom. The entire Bathroom is clad in marble, together with the gold plated taps, gold plated trim on the doors in the Bathroom, and the gold plated chandelier, this Bathroom looks luxurious. Next to the entrance to the Bathroom is a double vanity sink, with two huge mirrors. The luxurious feel in the bathroom is further enhanced by a glass box with gold trimming where residents can find grooming amenities. I find the countertop space at the sink area a tad tight, mainly due to the size of the sinks, leaving not much space for residents to place the toiletries they might bring to the hotel. 

The gold trimmings in the double vanity makes the bathroom look posh

Sitting in one corner of the Bathroom, under the chandelier, is a free-standing bathtub. The bathtub, both large and deep, is great for guests to soak away the fatigue after spending a whole day exploring Singapore. Raffles Hotel Singapore provides a bathtub pillow which enhances the soaking experience in the tub. The hotel even places a gold plated rack on the bathtub that has a tablet stand, allowing guests to watch movies while soaking in the tub.

The white marbled bathroom with golden trimmings
The deep free standing bathtub with gold plated taps

Two cubicles housing the toilet and a walk-in shower are found opposite the bathtub. The walk-in shower fitted with both gold plated regular showerhead and rainshower. The addition of a marble bench in the walk-in shower allows residents to sit on while showering. Similar to the toilet in the Powder Room, the toilet in the Bathroom is fitted with a bidet and comes with heating function on the toilet seat.

Balcony

The space of the Presidential Suite in the Raffles Hotel Singapore is so big that even the balcony is huge. The balcony spans across the entire length of the Presidential Suite. Residents can gain access to the balcony from one of the six doors spreading across the parlour and the dining area. Raffles Hotel Singapore is very generous in furnishing the balcony. There is sufficient furniture in the balcony, yet does not make this space look too cluttered. The balcony is furnished with three single-seater armchairs complemented with individual side tables, a set of outdoor cushioned sofa and a coffee table. There is even a smaller dining table that sits four where residents of the suite can enjoy alfresco dining, with the view of the Palm Courts. The balcony boasts a view of the courtyard in Raffles Hotel, the tranquillity of the courtyard makes me forget the hotel is situated in the middle of a busy part of Singapore.

The massive balcony in the Presidential Suite
View of the courtyard from the balcony in the Presidential Suite in the day
Night view of the courtyard from the balcony in the Presidential Suite

Service

My first impression of the service at the Raffles Hotel Singapore is positive. As soon as I arrived at the main entrance of the hotel, I was warmly welcomed by a brigade of the front door staff despite the humid climate. These front door staffs never fail to welcome residents back to the hotel or wishing us a good day whenever I walk past them at the main door. 

Due to the pandemic, check-in at the hotel is no longer at the traditional reception area.  Guests are encouraged to complete the check-in online for a seamless check-in experience. As I have completed my online check-in, after scanning a QR code, the front door staffs sprung into action like a well-oiled machine and I was immediately escorted by one of the staffs directly to the suite that I was assigned for the in-suite check-in. Information such as the location of the pool and gym and the breakfast location and timing was given. I was also briefed on the facilities in the Presidential Suite.

A personal care kit is placed in the suite for residents during this pandemic period
Fruit platter welcomes residents to the Presidential Suite

I find the service rendered by the butler team to be a mix. The service by the butler team is generally negative when I called them over the in-suite phone. The butler team seem to be impatient over the phone when asked some questions on the hotel and the suite. Most of the times, it seems that the butler who took the call wanted to end the call quickly and did not bother to offer alternate solutions or additional information. I called to ask about the pillow menu and pillow options, the butler just gave a bunch of names of the pillows they have in an impatient manner and did not even bother to describe the pillows options. The butler ended the call by saying one of the pillows in the suite is already the firmest they have, which was not true. He did not even try to solve my problem and his attitude felt patronising. Subsequently, I was given a firmer pillow by another butler when I brought up the pillow issue to the staff at the front desk. There is another instance where I called regarding food delivery, the butler at the other end of the call provided information in an impatient manner, as though I was disturbing him so late at night.

Despite the negative experience with the butler team over the phone, the service rendered by the butler team who came to the suite is pleasant. I met Yujun on the second day of my stay, she is very friendly and amicable. Due to the rain, I was not able to utilise the swimming pool slot that I booked 11 am. I explained the situation to Yujun and mentioned that I only managed to get a book for one pax despite there are two of us staying in the suite. Yujun patiently listened to my situation with empathy and managed to secure a slot for two pax at the pool. Yujun even left a note in the suite stating that she managed to secure the additional slot when I was not in the suite. On top of that, Yujun clarified the several questions that I asked which were information not given at the point of my check-in. I bumped into Yujun, after checking out on the hotel premises. I was surprised that she was able to recognise me and even stopped for a short chat on my stay at the suite. 

Amelia was the other butler who I encountered during my stay at the Raffles Hotel Singapore. She brought the food that I ordered for room service. Amelia carefully placed the food on the dining table in the suite in a professional manner, cognizant of where we were seated on the table, ensuring the food were within reach of everyone on the table. Amelia also demonstrates excellent listening skills and patiently answered the queries I had. Amelia even welcomed my guests as though they were staying at the hotel and checked if we require anything else to make our stay comfortable. As my guests stayed near the turndown service time, instead of assuming that I do not require turndown service, Amelia took the initiative to check if I require turndown service. When I declined the turndown service, Amelia checked if there are any items that I need replenishment. She subsequently brought the item that I requested for replenishment.

It was unfortunate that my interaction with the butler Akira was brief and late, whom I met when I was leaving the Raffles Hotel Singapore. During my check-out timing, Akira called the suite to confirm the charges that I incurred during my stay in the Suite. Upon learning that we did not have the time to claim our welcome drink, instead of letting things slip, Akira took the initiative to bring the welcoming drink, Raffles Hotel’s signature Singapore Sling, to the suite. When Akira checked how was my stay at the hotel, I brought up to him the negative experience I had with the butlers on the phone. Instead of being defensive, Akira took responsibility for his colleagues and apologised on their behalf. When learnt that I require complimentary parking coupon, Akira immediately headed to the concierge to help me get one. He even got me extra face masks in case the one that I use gave way. Akira also informed me that I had extra unused credit with the hotel and suggested for me to head to Raffles Boutique to utilise the credits. When I was at the Raffles Boutique, I was surprised that Akira had made the call to the boutique about my arrival.

During my stay, I met Ales the housekeeping staff who cleaned the suite. I arranged for housekeeping at 12.30 pm on the second day but only vacate the suite at 12.45 pm. Ales patiently waited outside the suite. When I apologised to Ales for making her waiting, Ales gave the warmest smile and told me not to worry about it. Ales cleaned up the massive suite efficiently and diligently leaving the suite in the same state as when I first checked in. I returned to the suite shortly after vacating it, as it was raining that there are limited places I can go. I waited outside the suite for Ales to finish her job. The moment Ales saw me, she apologised for making me wait. Ales even updated me that she was almost done cleaning up the suite and she was on her way to get a vacuum and apologised again for letting me wait longer. When I returned to the suite after Ales worked her magic, the suite smells fresh and was in tip-top condition.

Lay Hoon is the staff who works at the Gym & swimming pool area. Lay Hoon, upon learning that I was checking out the facilities in the gym, showed me around the various equipment in the gym. She also took the time to show me to the pool on my request. On the second day, while waiting for Ales to clean up the suite, I popped by the pool again. Lay Hoon was there welcoming guests. I told her due to the rain, I was not able to enjoy the pool or go anywhere. Lay Hoon brought me to the pool area and told me I could wait at the sheltered area while waiting for my room to get ready. 

Hotel Facilities

Due to the COVID-19 pandemic, Raffles Hotel Singapore has in place measures to ensure the safety of their guests. Residents in Raffles Hotel wanting to use the swimming pool and gym facilities are to pre-book in advanced. As there are limited slots, each room is allowed to book for one 90 min slot per day.

The Gym and Swimming pool is located on the third level in the main building of Raffles Hotel

Swimming Pool

I made my booking with the hotel via email before my arrival and was able to secure relatively good time slots to use the pool. The swimming pool in Raffles Hotel is located on the third floor of the main building (where the hotel lobby is) and shares the same entrance as the gym. Despite the rooftop saltwater swimming pool being a tad small, guests are still able to get a few decent laps in it. With the restrictions Raffles Hotel has in place due to the pandemic, the number of residents that can use the pool was tightly controlled. The number of guests allowed at anyone is strictly controlled by the number of sunbeds at the pool. I had no problems getting an ideal spot for sunbathing. 

Rooftop swimming pool in Raffles Hotel Singapore
Another view of the swimming pool

Gym

Similar to the policy for the swimming pool, residents are to make a booking for the gym before we are allowed to use it. The gym in Raffles Hotel Singapore comprises of several “rooms”, instead of a big area like most hotels. By the entrance to the gym is an area for gym users to practise yoga, do some weight training or simply to stretch. Further into the gym, there is a room where most weight machines together with some dumbells and barbells are placed. There is yet another room for cardio training where treadmills and gym bikes, as well as rowing machines, are located. The gym is well equipped with facilities allowing its residents to do some decent workout.

Breakfast

Breakfast was served in the Tiffin Room, located at the main lobby of Raffles Hotel Singapore. There are seatings outside the restaurant, in the lobby area, as well as an outdoor courtyard area on top of the tables inside the Tiffin Room. Due to the measure to curb the pandemic, the sittings are well spaced out and instead of the usual buffet-style, breakfast is served in ala-carte buffet style. The choice of food for breakfast is rather limited and there are no variations during my two days of dining. Notwithstanding, there are still options for Western, Chinese and local cuisines. The food was flavourful and delicious. The Belgium waffles that I ordered tasted crispy. However, when it comes to local delights, I find the sambal chilli to be a big let down. It is not spicy nor fragrant, but the Nasi Lemak tasted great. Upon seated, orders were taken for beverages. The serving for breakfast took quite a while, on the first day of my visiting, food were served around 45 mins to 1 hour after orders were being placed. I also find there seem to be inconsistency in the service at the Tiffin Room. On the first day, we were not offered breadbasket, while on the second day, we were asked if we would like breadbasket. The staff also mixed up my order of omelette with my friend’s on the first day of our visit. I am not too sure if service standards took a dive due to us visiting the Tiffin Room nearing the end of breakfast timing.

Overall

I am privileged to have the experience of staying in the Presidential Suite. The Presidential Suite in the Raffles Hotel was luxurious and comfortable, with ample space, both indoors and at the balcony for residents of the suite.  The Presidential Suite faces the tranquil courtyard, making spending time in the balcony a pleasant experience. The sleep quality on the King Bed is superb, providing me with great night sleep. Despite facing the main road, the soundproofing is excellent. Most of the staff that I met during my stay were welcoming and friendly. My stay would be perfect if not for the less than ideal experience I had with the butler team over the phone.

[Accommodation Review] – Sofitel Sentosa Resort & Spa (Prestige Suite), Sentosa, Singapore (31 Dec 19 – 1 Jan 20)

Location

Sofitel Sentosa Resort & Spa is located near the western part of Sentosa Island, a resort island south of Singapore. Most of the attractions on Sentosa Island are located to the east of the island, hence Sofitel Sentosa Resort & Spa is very much isolated. The hotel does provide scheduled bus services to the other parts of the island as well as to mainland Singapore. Getting around the island is not a problem just a little time-consuming. The only other non-hotel establishment around Sofitel is the golf course opposite. This means that guests staying at the hotel, who are too lazy to step out of the hotel, will have to rely on the overpriced food options on the hotel premises. Being isolated also means guests can relax and enjoy the tranquillity the hotel offers and have a true resort feel when staying at Sofitel Sentosa Resorts & Spa.

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Sofitel Sentosa Resort & Spa Hotel Signage

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The main lobby of Sofitel Sentosa Resort & Spa

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Check-in counters in Sofitel Sentosa Resort & Spa

The Suite

We originally booked to stay in a Junior Suite, however, due to my friend’s status with Accor group, we were given a free upgrade to the massive 64m² Prestige Suite. The Prestige Suite at Sofitel Sentosa Resort & Spa has three main areas, the living room, the bedroom and the bathroom. As we were assigned the ground floor, the suite also comes with outdoor patios both at the bedroom and the living room.

Entryway

Unlike most suites in hotels where one will usually get a view of the living room from the main entrance, entering through the main entrance of the Prestige Suite in Sofitel Sentosa Resort & Spa one will come into an entryway. This entryway is situated between the living room and the bedroom, which both has doors for added privacy.

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We were greeted by an entryway that separates the living room and the bedroom

Living Room

The decor of the Living Room in the Prestige Suite of Sofitel Sentosa Resort & Spa has a heavy retro French flare to it. The squarish living room is cosy thanks to the use of the soft and fluffy carpet and the placement of the furniture, coupled with the use of soft yellow lighting.  A bulk of the living room is occupied by the lounge space consisting of a three-seater sofa, a soft leather coffee table and a couple of stools on the side. Tucked in one corner, by the floor to ceiling window, is a rocking armchair for guests to relax in while doing some reading. There are a couple of shelvings placed by the wall that does little than for decoration purposes. I did found spaces for putting small nick-nacks on this shelving though. In front of the couch is a large LED TV that features locals and international channels. Speaking of the couch, the couch does have a mouldy smell the moment we sat on it. There is an outdoor patio from the living room which can be accessed via the sliding door next to the TV.

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Overview of the living room in the Prestige Suite

Behind the couch, facing the living room is a sizable work desk, which allows guests to do some decent work. The low-back office chair clad in leather is more comfortable to sit in then it looks. However, I do find the placement of the power outlets on the floor a tad inconvenient for guests to charge their lifestyle devices. Next to the work desk, tucked in one other corner of the living room is the minibar cabinet. The cylindrical minibar houses a coffee machine, a kettle with complimentary tea and coffee as well as a fridge together with cups and mugs. I like the design of this cylindrical minibar as it can be closed fully, hiding its purpose when not in use.

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Work desk in the living room

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The cylindrical minibar is well stocked with drinks and snacks

Bedroom

The door on the left from the entryway leads to the bedroom. The retro French decor theme is also apparent in the bedroom, using mainly purple and soft colours, the bedroom feels cosy and comfortable. In the centre of the bedroom sits a large King Bed that provided me with excellent sleep quality. To ensure guests get a good night sleep, other than the comfortable King bed with its luxurious duvet set, Sofitel Sentosa Resort & Spa also provides a limited choice of pillow menu (the menu can be found in the wardrobe). There is a side table mounted to the wall on either side of the King bed complete with power outlets, which allows guests to charge their mobile phones and tablets. Opposite the King bed, sitting on a metal stand is a large LED TV with the same entertainment options like the one in the living room. The metal stand also provides additional space for guests to place small nick-nacks onto.

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King bed in the bedroom

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One of the two side tables in the bedroom

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Power outlets by the side table

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TV in the bedroom

Two wardrobes are tucked onto the wall in the bedroom. These wardrobes provide ample storage space for guests to put away their clothing. The wardrobe on the left mainly consist of shelvings and cabinets and is also where the in-room safe can be found. Despite having a small space for guests to hang their clothes, the storage of iron and ironing board here makes it impossible to do so. The wardrobe on the right mainly serves the function for guests to hang their clothing. Tucked along the same wall as the wardrobes and runs all the way to the door to the bedroom is a ledge where guests can stow their luggage. Some drawers underneath the ledge provided more storage space for guests.

The bedroom has a large floor to ceiling window panel that can be open for guests to gain access to another outdoor patio, complete with deck chairs and table. The view from the patio of the suite that was assigned to us leaves one to be desired as it faces the main driveway to the hotel. Nonetheless, this is a great place to relax.

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Outdoor patio from the bedroom of the Prestige Suite

Bathroom

The retro French theme that is consistent in the living room and bedroom of the Prestige Suite at Sofitel Sentosa Resort & Spa flows into the bathroom as well. The bathroom can only be accessed from the bedroom. The bathroom has a separate walk-in shower, tiled with predominantly red mosaic tiles, it features both a rain shower and a regular shower head. I like the fact that the hotel installed a fairly large stone shelf in one corner of the walk-in shower for toiletries and bath amenities. Sofitel Sentosa Resort & Spa pampers its guests with the luxurious Lanvin bath amenities. The toilet cubicle, located next to the walk-in shower, also uses retro red mosaic tiles making the decor consistent not only in the bathroom also throughout the entire Prestige Suite. The sink area occupies the entire width of the bathroom, features a single sink with ample countertop space for guests to put away their toiletries. The large mirrors installed at the sink area makes the entire bathroom feel larger than it actually is. Next to the sink is a bathtub where guests can soak their worries away. Sofitel Sentosa Resort & Spa provides its guests with bath salt for them to soak in the bathtub.

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A large bathtub in the bathroom of the Prestige Suite

Service

The service we received at Sofitel Sentosa Resort & Spa was good. There are instances where the staffs portrayed the hospitable value of the hotel. Queuing at check-in feels a little chaotic at first, however, the moment the staff processing our check-in realises my friend’s status with Accor Group, they immediately sprung into action and invited us to the counter for Accor Members to process our check-in. Another staff member got busy and prepared welcome drinks and cold towels for us. Our check-in was processed by a staff member named Harshpreeb. Harshpreeb processed our check-in with great efficiency and even escorted us to our suite and ran through every feature and corner of the Prestige Suite. We enquired about late check-out before Harshpreeb left our suite, and instead of calling us, the industrious Harshpreeb personally came to our suite and updated us on the information that we asked for. Our requests for additional bath amenities and ice buckets were met with great efficiency by members of the housekeeping team.

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Dedicated check-in counter for Accor members

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We were served welcome drinks during check-in

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Fresh fruit platter was provided in the Suite

Hotel Facilities

Swimming Pool

Sofitel Sentosa Resort & Spa has a very large swimming pool that guests can relax by. The swimming pool is also large enough for guests to do some decent laps. There is no lack of sundeck chairs and sofas around the pool for guests to relax on. Despite not having a separate pool for younger guests, the hotel did a great job by cordoning the shallower part of the pool to cater for their younger guests. There are more facilities at Sofitel Sentosa Resort & Spa, such as a gym and a spa, however, they are located in another part of the hotel that requires some walk from the main hotel buildings. We did not visit these facilities during our stay this time around.

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Swimming pool in Sofitel Sentosa Resort & Spa at night

Overall

We had a great stay at the Prestige Suite at Sofitel Sentosa Resort & Spa. The suite was large and certainly makes our stay feels comfortable and cosy. The air conditioning in the suite was great, keeping us cool amid a typical hot climate in Singapore. The sleep quality on the King bed makes us feel recharged the next morning. The service at Sofitel Sentosa Resort & Spa was great with staffs paying attention to details and made us feel welcome. Sofitel Sentosa Resort & Spa is a great place to stay and relax if one can overlook the inconveniences of its location.

Jeju/Busan/Seoul Day 12 (6 Nov 19) – Bye Bye Seoul, Bye Bye South Korea: A Conclusion of our South Korea Trip

Final day in South Korea

After some final packing of our luggage, my friends and I headed to the nearby Lotteria, a South Korean fast-food chain for brunch. Throughout our 12 days in South Korea, this is the first time we ate from Lotteria (my friend and I tried once three years ago when we visited Seoul). After our meal, we headed back to the hotel to freshen up and check-out. Fortunately, there is an airport limousine stop next to our hotel, getting to the airport was not a problem for us. We timed our departure from the hotel according to the airport limousine service scheduled timing. The bus came shortly at the time we arrived at the bus stop. The ride from Dongdaemun area to Incheon International Airport Terminal 1 (where our flight departs from) takes around 1 hour. The airport limousine has wide and comfortable seats which allowed us to take a snooze while being whizzed to the airport.

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This is the bus that will take us to the airport

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Taking a wefie on the airport limousine

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We relaxed as we saw Seoul flash by

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We are near the airport

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Arrival at Incheon International Airport Terminal 1

At Incheon Airport

The airport limousine only stops at one of the gates in Incheon International Airport Terminal 1. From there, passengers are to walk towards their check-in rows. Incheon International Airport is quite big, it took us around 5mins to locate and walk to our check-in row. Prior to checking in, I remembered there was a need for us to show the goods we purchased for a tax refund. However, this process has been automated. We discovered when we were at Incheon International Airport that there is no need to show proof of purchase. Foreigners claim tax refund can check-in our luggage first before heading to the automated kiosks to have the paperwork done up, we just have to produce the receipts for tax refund purposes. My friends and I headed to the airlines counter to process our check-in before proceeding to clear custom.

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Wefie at the airport

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Tax refund automated kiosks before custom clearance

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Checking-in to our flight

Once we cleared the custom, we proceeded to the tax refund counter to claim our tax. Tax refunds will be paid in either USD or KRW. As it is largely automated, akin to withdrawing money from ATM, the process is significantly faster compared to what we experienced three years ago. The airside of Incheon International Airport is another shopping mecca for passengers. There are numerous luxury brands setting up boutiques here for passengers to shop. There are even Korean Culture experience centres at the airside for passengers to understand the Korean Culture while waiting for their flight. My friends and I spent the rest of our time at the airport in the airport lounge while waiting for our boarding time.

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Cleared immigration

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Our first stop after clearing custom is to head for tax refund

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Time for us to board our flight back home

A Lookback at our South Korea Trip

Today is the day we bid farewell to South Korea after travel around for 12 days from south to north of the country. Throughout the past 11 days, we have seen both the nature and the cultural part of the country, We had also explored places which has seen far less foreign tourists and been to places that we have never visited before. A recap of our itinerary for this trip:

Day 1 – Arrival at South Korea and onward to Jeju. Due to unexpected delays, we only managed to visit Dongmun Night Market and had dinner at Black Pork Street.

Day 2 – Exploring Jeju via the Southern Road. We visited the major sights in Jeju such as Seongsan Ilchulbong, Seopjikoji, Jeju Folk Village, Jeongbang Waterfall, Oedolgae Rock, Cheonjiyeon Waterfall and Seogwipo Olle Market.

Day 3 – Hiking Hallasan. We stopped by Mysterious Road on our way to Yeongsil Trail on Hallasan, where we took a half-day hike up the mountain. After the hike, we visited Jusangjeolli Cliff, Innisfree Jeju House and end up in Jeju-si.

Day 4 – Onward to Busan. We took a morning flight from Jeju to Busan. At Busan, we visited Gamcheong Cultural Village and head to Busan Train Station to get our train tickets to Seoul.

Day 5 – A road trip to Gyeongsangnam-do. We drove west of Busan visiting places like Mireuksan, Dara Park, Mundong Waterfall, Sinseondae Platform and Windy Hill.

Day 6 – Historic Gyeongju. We drove north of Busan to Gyeongju, visiting Gyeongju Gyochon Traditional Village, Woljeonggyo Bridge, Gyerim Forest, Cheomseongdae, Donggung Palace & Wolji Pond and Bulguksa Temple.

Day 7 – Eastern Busan. We made a quick stop at Haeundae Beach before heading to Haedong Yonggungsa Temple. We also did some shopping at Busan Premium Outlet and Centum City.

Day 8 – Onward to Seoul. We took a three-hour ride on the KTX from Busan to Seoul and spend the rest of the day shopping at Gangnam Garosugil and Myeongdong.

Day 9 – Day Trip to Suwon. Before making our way to Suwon, we made a pitstop at Namdaemun Market and Namdaemun Gate. In Suwon, we visited Hwaseong Haenggung followed by an evening stroll on Hwaseong Fortress. We ended our day with a visit to a Jjimjilbang.

Day 10 – Gangchon and Nami Island. We rode on a railway bike at Gangchon before heading to Nami Island in the nearby province of Gangwon-do. While back at Seoul, we stopped by Cheonggyecheon Stream and did some night shopping at Myeongdong.

Day 11 – Historic Seoul. We visited sights in Seoul such as Seoul City Wall, Deoksugung Palace and ended our day with shopping trips to Hongdae and Myeongdong.

Afterthoughts

During our time in South Korea, I thought there are a couple of apps that I highly recommend to visitors to South Korea (I am not sponsored by them, just sharing useful apps during my travel in South Korea). The Naver Map App (more information here) is what we relied on largely in South Korea from driving to taking public transport. This app is similar to Google Map, only it works in South Korea. Google Map has limited functions in South Korea and it does not show driving routes. Naver Map App not only allowed me to plan my driving routes before coming to South Korea, but the driving routes recommended by the app is also very accurate. The app is also useful for those who do not drive in South Korea as it shows in real-time the public transport options. The second app that I relied on heavily while in South Korea is the Subway App. This app is excellent in navigating through the confusion subway map in South Korea. It is capable of showing us the subway to take and the real-time arrivals and departures of trains. This app gives us a good idea of the time required to travel on subways. The subway app not only displays the subway system in Seoul, but it also has options to display subway systems in major cities such as Busan. We managed to cover quite a bit of South Korea throughout our 12 days here. We also experienced a few firsts during this trip: driving a left-hand drive, climbing the highest mountain in South Korea, taking the KTX, taking the longest cable car system in South Korea, riding on the railway bike to name a few. Throughout this trip, we had a good mix of nature and culture aspect of South Korea and still managed to cater time for shopping.

Jeju/Busan/Seoul Day 11 (5 Nov 19) – The Ancient and Modern Faces of Seoul: From Strolling the Seoul City Wall to Visiting Deoksugung Palace to Shopping at Hongdae and Myeongdong

Seoul is not all about shopping districts, there are a few historical sites in Seoul such as the big five palaces. We planned to visit a couple of these historic sites today followed by finishing up our day with some shopping districts.

Viewing Seoul from Seoul City Wall – Naksan Section

We started our day today visiting part of the Seoul City Wall, which my friend and I did miss out the last time we came to Seoul three years ago. The 18km Seoul City Wall was built to protect Seoul from invasion, the entire wall was well preserved after standing on its spot for more than 600 years. Visitors to Seoul City Wall can choose to walk the entire 18km or do it in part. As we have little time today, we opted to do the shortest section of the wall, starting from Naksan and we would end up in Dongdaemun gate. To get to Naksan stretch of the Seoul City Wall, we took the subway to Hyehwa Station, which is a mere two stops away from where our hotel is. Exiting the subway station, the path to Naksan is a short 5 mins upslope stroll through a neighbourhood. There are some small shops near Hyehwa Station, where we made a short pit stop to check out their merchandise. We continued our walk towards the base of Naksan Park, which was very well marked with signs pointing visitors to the park. Soon we arrived at a flight of stairs which would take us up to Naksan Park. Naksan Park sits on top of 124m Naksan Hill, which has commanding views of parts of Seoul as well as N Seoul Tower and the surrounding Mountain ranges.

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Autumn street scene around Hyehwa Station

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Walking from Hyehwa Station to Naksan Park

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It is going to be an upslope walk to Naksan Park

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Naksan Park lies on top of these stairs

As we climbed the stairs, we were able to see a quieter side of Seoul, a stark difference from places like Myeongdong and Gangnam. At the top of the stairs is an intersection, we took the road on the left that brought us to the  Seoul City wall in under 3 mins walk. The Seoul City Wall sits at the top of the hill with the inner-city side being shorter than the side that faces outside of the city it was meant to protect. Getting up close to Seoul City Wall, it is apparent that some parts of the wall are being from different time periods in Korean history. Some parts of the wall are built with more uniform stone blocks cut into similar dimensions, while there are parts of the wall being built with irregular shapes of stones. Most of the inner side of the wall shows signs of being recently restored with the stones looking newer than the others. This stretch of the Seoul City Wall from Naksan to Dongdaemun is a downslope walk, making it a very easy walk for visitors of all ages.  There weren’t many people around during our visit to the Seoul City Wall, the only people we saw are locals taking their morning stroll. Along the way, we were reminded of how vast the city of Seoul is with the magnificent views of the city constantly in our sight. After walking for around 30 mins, the serene view gave way to a busy street bustling with life. The moment we saw Dongdaemun Gate sitting majestically in the centre of a busy road, we know our walk along the Seoul City Wall came to an end. I would recommend people who wanted to take a stroll along the Seoul City Wall but do not have much time for it to go for this Naksan to Dongdaemun route. Reaching the main road, we headed for the nearest subway station – Dongdaemun Station and made our way to our next destination.

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Quiet Seoul from Naksan Park

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Seoul City Wall up close

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Taking a wefie at the end of our walk along Seoul City Wall

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Dongdaemun gate sitting in the middle of a busy road

Deoksugung Palace

A visit to Seoul will not be complete without a visit to one of the five palaces in the city. Those with more time can opt to visit the bigger palaces of Gyeongbukgung or Changdeokgung, which would take up more than half a day. Since my friend and I visited these two palaces the last time we came to Seoul, coupled that we do not really have a lot of time today, we opted to visit one of the smaller palaces in Seoul – Deoksugung Palace. We took the subway to City Hall Station which is next to Deoksugung Palace. As it was approaching lunchtime, instead of heading into the palace, we crossed the busy road diagonally opposite the palace and settled lunch in a small family-run restaurant. Despite the owners of the restaurant only able to understand very basic English, we had no problems ordering the food (they do have an English menu). The food was inexpensive and delicious.

After lunch, we headed to Deoksugung Palace. After getting our tickets (KRW1,000 per adult), just when we were about to enter the palace, we were in time to witness the change of guard ceremony. The elaborate ceremony saw locals dressed up in ancient Korean soldier uniforms handing over the guard duties to the next group. The ceremony lasted around 5 mins and we were invited to taking pictures with the guards before heading into the palace. There is a small tentage by the side of the entrance where visitors can dress in Hanbok for the photo opportunity with the guards for free.

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We were in time for the change of guard ceremony outside Deoksugung Palace

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Taking wefie with the guard commander outside Deoksugung Palace

Deoksugung Palace was first used as a temporary palace in 1592 during the Japanese invasion where the King stayed when he returned to Seoul after the invasion as the other palaces were burnt down during the invasion. The palace was reused as again in the 19th century where the later King of the Korean dynasty used it as a base to establish the Korean Empire and raised his status to Emperor. It is during this period when most of the buildings in Deoksugung Palace was added. Walking through the main gate of Deoksugung Palace, we came to a stone bridge that transports visitors over a small stream, similar to that of a moat found in most palaces around the world. My friends and I headed to the first building that is surrounded by a stoned corridor. This building is near the entrance of the palace and served as the sleeping chamber of the King when he resided in Deoksugung Palace. Taking a peep inside the sleeping chamber, a small throne sits in the centre of the building and the interior was relatively simple in design. A smaller building next to the King’s sleeping chamber closed for public viewing was used as a place where the Korean King used to receive foreign envoys.

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The sleeping chamber of the Korean King

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