Three-star hotels often feel like the ambiguous in-between: You never know whether to expect something that resembles budget accommodation, or something that is higher up the scale.
Happily, my recent stay at Days Hotel at Zhongshan Park in Singapore was more of the latter.
I could wax lyrical about its comfortable bed and blackout curtains ensuring a good night’s sleep, but it is also the small details that lend a special touch to the experience. For those who need the reassurance of a night light, Days Hotel offers a simple but inspired solution: A light set in a semi-opaque panel in the wall, with the bedside table placed against this panel.
The padded window seat stretching the length of the window, with the desk right next to it, is a nice touch too.
In keeping with its fun and leisure vibe, my city-view room was decorated in pine green paired with a rich burnt orange (there is a blue option as well), a daring mix that comes off as edgy and modern.
When I choose a hotel to stay in, complimentary Internet access is one of the things on my list. Days Hotel’s complimentary WiFi works as it should – fast and stable.
Being practical doesn’t hurt either. Want to fit in a quick workout in your day – or night? There is a 24-hour fitness room at Level 2.
You can also make use of the self-service laundromat and an ice-dispensing machine. Out in the open air, on the same level, there is a nice little garden (which doubles as a smoking area) with a simple water feature border.
Situated at the fringe of the Novena district, the 14-storey Days Hotel is managed by the Wyndham Hotel Group. It is part of the Zhongshan Park development by HH Properties Pte Ltd. The development also comprises the neighbouring four-star Ramada, Zhongshan Park, shopping mall and commercial tower.
Days Hotel’s halal-certified restaurant, Rajah on 21, has themed buffets on alternate weekdays: Italian Fiesta on Monday, Viva España on Wednesday, and Moroccan Feasts on Friday. An a la carte menu is available, too.
On special occasions (like the Mother’s Day weekend I was there), the culinary team set up a barbecue station outdoors as part of its dinner buffet.
Its halal certification means that there is no alcohol served on the hotel’s premises. Those looking for a pub in the vicinity can head over to the one next door, or the four-star Ramada across the park square, also under the Wyndham Group.
Days Hotel is located on Jalan Rajah, just off Balestier Road, which for Singaporean standards is not as close to the MRT line as it could be. Days Hotel, however, sweetens the deal by offering a complimentary shuttle service that runs at regular intervals throughout the day with stops at Novena station (which is directly under the Novena Square mall) and the famous Orchard Road.
It took me five minutes to get from the hotel to the Novena MRT station using their shuttle service.
At any rate, it is reasonably easy to hail a taxi from the entrance of the Zhongshan mall next door, if necessary.
Having a mall beside the hotel is a plus point if you want to head out for a meal but don’t want to travel too far, or simply would like to make a run to the pharmacy, or pick up some groceries. The supermarket in Zhongshan Mall is bigger than I expected for the small mall, and is well stocked.
It is also in this area, away from the typical touristy places around Singapore, where you can lose yourself in the old-day charm of the Balestier Heritage Trail, a joint effort by the National Heritage Board and the Urban Redevelopment Authority.
Formerly a sugar cane plantation area, the roughly 4km stretch, demarcated with trail markers, tells a tale that spans nearly 180 years.
The traditional art deco-influenced shophouses that survive till this day retain the five-foot way of days long past, introduced by Sir Thomas Stamford Raffles who stated in a 1822 town plan that every shophouse must have a verandah “open at all times as a continued and covered passage on each side of the street”.
Amusingly, there seems to be more lighting stores than anything else on this street now but nestled between them are other old shops, many of which are family-run businesses. Foodies can sample bak kut teh at one end of the street, stop for butter-kaya toast and coffee at one of the traditional bakeries in the middle, and end their walkabout with the famous tau sar piah (bean paste pastry) at Loong Fatt Eating House and Confectionery. It comes in sweet and salty varieties, and there is often a queue.
Most eateries here open till the wee hours of the night.
Conveniently located a two-minute walk (less than 200m) from Days Hotel is the Rochor Beancurd House (432, Balestier Road) which serves hot and chilled tau foo fah as well as an assortment of other snacks, like durian pastries and egg tarts.
Since the 1960s, Lam Yeo Coffee Powder has been offering different varieties of coffee powder to its customers. Today, it still operates out of its old shoplot – but gone are the days when it offered customers a free tin of condensed milk and one kati (approx 600g) of sugar with every purchase of one kati of coffee powder.
You can also get a glimpse of the former Shaw Malay Film Studios, located on side road Jalan Ampas. If this sounds familiar, you’re probably thinking P. Ramlee, whose rise to stardom started here.
On my trip there, I also popped into Lim Kay Khee Optical & Contact Lens Centre, which opened in 1948 and moved to its present location in the 1960s, where you can customise retro-style spectacle frames that are still shaped by hand using wooden tools.
Rehydrate at the water kiosk at the corner of Boon Teck Road where a small cart stands, offering water and tea to any passer-by at no charge. In a time long past when clean drinking water was a luxury, the provision of water was an act of charity for labourers (such as bullock cart drivers or rickshaw pullers) working in the area. Today, this service continues to be provided by Thong Teck Sian Tong Lian Sin Sia, a religious charitable organisation.
Just across the road from the hotel is the Sun Yat Sen Nanyang Memorial Hall, a national monuments that pays tribute to the father of the 1911 Chinese Revolution. The entrance fee is waived for Days Hotel and Ramada guests. From there, turn around a corner to check out the Burmese Buddhist temple on Tai Gin Road.
There are indeed sights aplenty in the neighbourhood for those interested in history and sampling local delicacies on the side. A tour guide might prove useful for the nitty-gritty details (ours pointed out the curious circular stairwells outside some buildings which was said to be used as the escape route by cheating spouses!).
Sightseeing aside, Days Hotel offers a compact room, perfect for the value-conscious but comfort-seeking solo traveller, or even two, if you don’t intend to hang out in your room all day long. Don’t ask for an extra bed to be wheeled in; there is no space.
Days Hotel’s tagline touts it as “the best value under the sun”. I would say it is fair to say that it is, indeed, a good value-for-money in the mid-range option.
Days Hotel Singapore at Zhongshan Park
1 Jalan Rajah, 329133 Singapore
Tel: +65 6808 6868