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Colonial Heritage & Nature Sanctuary: Villa Samadhi Singapore
Admist Singapore’s urban landscape are many pockets of green spaces where one can escape the stresses of city life, get close to nature and spot wildlife in their natural habitats. On the fringe of one of these lovely green spaces – Labrador Nature Reserve – perched on a small hill is where you’ll find boutique hotel Villa Samadhi Singapore.
In a former life, the black-and-white colonial building that houses the hotel served as the quarters of the artillery garrison of the British Army, thereafter, as a boy’s home and later, as a halfway house.
Constructed in the 1920s, the colonial building was meticulously restored over three years under the watchful eye and direction of Federico Asaro, CEO and founder of luxury hospitality group Samadhi Retreats which owns and manages the hotel. Samadhi is a Sanskrit word which refers to the highest state of meditation when the mind achieves stillness and a state of meditative consciousness.
The hospitality group’s “rustic-luxe” properties are usually enveloped by nature to allow urban travellers to disconnect from the daily grind and recharge in a natural environment, while enjoying luxe amenities and quality service.
The two-storey Villa Samadhi Singapore opened in January 2017 with 20 rooms, each with its own unique layout.
5 Things We ♥ About The Hotel
1. Painstaking Transformation
We are impressed with the great lengths that Asaro personally went to restore the hotel building sustainably using recycled materials that would blend seamlessly with the building’s colonial heritage and at the same time, complement its tropical surroundings.
We learnt that he travelled to different construction sites that were demolishing similar black-and-white buildings to pick up discarded tiles to resuse for the hotel, and also sourced for recycled wood that were salvaged from old kampung (Malay for “village”) houses to replace the hotel’s broken floor planks.
The corridor on the second floor which houses eight rooms and the Library
The original building only had a single upper floor with two halls and a kitchen in the adjacent building. Eight rooms were added to the ground floor in addition to the eight on the upper floor. The adjacent building now houses three Sarang (Malay for “nest”) rooms and the Luxe Sarang suite, which has its own plunge pool and garden. The hotel kept some of the building’s original structures such as the steps in the driveway, the staircase in the lobby, window frames and the high ceilings.
2. Rustic-Luxe Character & Colonial-Inspired Decor
We love the hotel’s colonial-inspired interiors which are adorned with vintage artefacts and antique pieces, many of which were handpicked by Asaro, an avid antiques collector, on his travels.
In the rooms, Asaro’s personal touch shows up in the form of antique suitcases and vintage chandeliers.
To fit in with the old-world atmosphere, some of the furniture were specially crafted from 40- to 80-year-old teak from Laos and Myanmar, while materials and fabrics such as bamboo blinds and cushion covers were produced by Malaysia’s indigenous groups and the hill tribes of northern Thailand.
Chill out and enjoy evening cocktails at the Library
Playing up the colonial theme is an old Burmese bank-teller counter that serves as a check-in desk at the lobby. Echoing more colonial vibe is the Library, located above the lobby, a chill-out space and evening cocktail venue decked with red curtains, red carpets, colonial chandeliers, dark wood and leather furniture, wooden floors, framed Hmong fabric on the walls and a pot of white Phalaenopsis orchid plant which also shows up in the bathrooms of all rooms.
Self-contained havens, Sarang (Malay word for "nest") rooms come with an indoor whirlpool for relaxing soaks
The best thing about our 35sqm Sarang room (one of four room types which includes Crib, Luxe Crib and Luxe Sarang) is the indoor plunge pool which is heated up daily from 3pm to 5pm and from 6pm to 11pm for relaxing soaks. Epsom bath salts are provided and by adding just two spoonfuls into the bath, the salts are said to help improve blood circulation and nerve function as well as clean the body of heavy metals and toxins.
3. Quality Service & Thoughtful Touches
We’re pretty low-maintenance guests but we always appreciate hotel staff that are two steps ahead of us, anticipating our needs.
We’re also grateful for a hotel that genuinely cares about our well-being as well as the environment. Instead of bottled water, the hotel serves drinking water in a copper jug, as according to Ayurvedic texts, drinking copper-enriched water is essential for certain metabolic functions and has healing benefits such as anti-microbial, anti-carcinogenic and anti-inflammatory properties.
We enjoyed a complimentary high-tea spread of scones, sandwiches, local desserts and a pot of tea served on gorgeous blue and white tableware.
Afternoon high tea served on elegant blue and white tableware
Photo: C. L.
The turndown service comes with Asian snacks, dark chocolate and a delightful nightcap of port wine.
But before indulging in the nightcap, we made our way to the Library for the Cocktail Hour (from 6pm to 7pm daily) to try one of the hotel’s famous house-infused gins. There are four to choose from – lemongrass, orange, lemon and ginger gins. The bartender can also whip up cocktails such as White Russian and Summer Spritz, or serve you house pour beer and house wines.
Crafted by the hotel's resident bartender, the gins are infused for a month with ingredients such as lemongrass, orange, lemon and ginger
4. Modern Thai Flavours
Tamarind Hill serves contemporary Thai and Burmese cuisine that are crafted from family heirloom recipes
Being big fans of Thai food, we couldn’t wait to check out sister restaurant Tamarind Hill which was a convenient two-minute walk from the hotel via a jungle boardwalk.
The restaurant occupies a colonial bungalow, originally built in 1881, and was the former residence of prominent ship chandler Sir George John Mansfield.
Helmed by Northern Thai Executive Chef Wanthan Nikonsaen, the restaurants serves sumptuous Thai dishes, all crafted from family heirloom recipes that were contributed by the restaurant’s community of Thai chefs, as well as a selection of Burmese specialities.
Standout dishes include Duck with Lychee Salad, Red Tom Yam, Steamed Seabass with Lime and Chilli, Stir-Fried Beef with Chilli and Basil Sauce, Massaman Beef Curry and Mango Sticky Rice.
Massaman Beef Curry
The restaurant’s Chandelier Bar, named after the 4m-long chandeliers that tower over it, also offers the hotel’s popular house-infused gins that are served during Cocktail Hour.
5. Peace & Tranquility
As nature lovers, we found great pleasure in being surrounded by so much greenery around the hotel.
We could sit for hours on the terrace outside our room, enjoying the peace and tranquility, listening to the sounds of birds, cicadas and other insects, and letting our eye muscles relax as we could focus on far objects and lush greenery.
Photo: C. L.
We were told to keep a lookout for wildlife such as peacocks, monkeys, frogs and butterflies but we only spotted squirrels and birds during our stay.
The hotel was the perfect place for us to reconnect with nature, rejuvenate and perhaps, even get a glimpse of what life was like during Singapore’s colonials days.
Rates start from $254++ for a Crib room.
Photos courtesy of Villa Samadhi Singapore