Swissotel The Stamford

Sunday, 21 August 2016

Ok, so I haven't been posting for almost 3 weeks. My bad. Well, that's what happens when you get a new kindle, have a birthday week and get caught up in the Pokémon Go fever. But ok, the birthday celebrations are over and the kindle and Pokémon addiction has abated a little. So here I am, back with a review from a recent staycation.
(The Kyushu posts will resume after this)

In recent years, I've been making it a point to pamper myself with at least a couple of staycations a year, especially so on my birthday. I'm an introvert by nature and given my occupation and surroundings, I often look forward to a staycation by myself.
Yes, I love staying on my own. I need the peace and solitude to recharge.
And no, it doesn't feel strange to be alone.
So anyway, given this indulgence of mine, I subscribe to quite a number of hotels' Facebook pages. This allows me to stay updated should there be any promotions or good deals. A particular one popped right up on a day when I was feeling supremely exhausted and my birthday staycation was hence decided.
Swissotel The Stamford
I had booked the Swiss Advantage Room (with a King bed) for a total of 2 nights (12 to 14 August). Interestingly, while completing the online booking, I noted that the hotel did not immediately charge my credit card. Instead, I was sent a confirmation email which also stated that payment was due.
However, as I subsequently did not hear from anyone, and my card was not charged (by their stipulated due date), I had to send an email myself to confirm my room booking. While the response was immediate, it was only then that I received confirmation and my card charged for the stay.
Yay. At least I know I have my peace and solitude.
Checking in on the day itself was efficient. I was early and the young guy at reception let me know what time to be back. He was polite and professional. In fact, I found it a little too professional. Well, I personally thought he could add a bit of personal touch. At least the older fella when I returned did so, and that made me feel more welcomed.
My allocated room was on the 25th floor, with the balcony facing inwards towards the pool. Unfortunately, it was raining quite a bit during my stay, so I didn't get to enjoy the balcony view as much as I would have liked.
While the room itself was pretty spacious, I think the hotel itself could probably do with a little renovation and maintenance. The furniture and décor looked tired and worn out. In fact, the small side cupboard holding the wine glasses and cups couldn't close properly at all. It stuck out like a sore thumb no matter how much effort I tried and I had to be careful not to knock myself onto it.
Otherwise, it was clean and quite comfortable. I slept really well on that king bed and that's a plus since I don't always do well on hotel beds. Oh, and my nose didn't react (I'm pretty "allergic" to dust) and that's my usual standard to measure room cleanliness.
What made me squeal though (yes, I really did and it's ok since I was alone) was that there was a nespresso machine in the room! Awesome! For someone who loves her caffine, this was an awesome plus for me. Heh. I also enjoyed their TWG tea packets. Really decent stuff set out.
Heh. I only got a picture of the exterior of the mini-bar because I was amused by the automated billing. At least they left the bottom shelf empty for guest's use. I encountered an automated one previously (in another hotel) which was fully stocked and got into a bit of a hassle trying to sort out the bill.
The bathroom itself was adequate and decently stocked with amenities. They even included shaving kits and sewing kits. However, instead of shower curtains, there was only a partial glass panel. Not exactly helpful since I still managed to get quite a bit of water all over the floor when showering but it did contain most of the damage.
What did irk me a little though was that the pipes and shower heads were leaky. Plus I had a bit of trouble with the sink; it got jammed when I stoppered the sink. Took some effort to unplug it and I didn't fool around with it thereafter.
Like I mentioned earlier, the hotel is probably overdue for some maintenance works. But since those defects were relatively minor and didn't really bother me, I did not ask for a room change.
However, such issues/defects even if small, do contribute to the overall presentation and image of a hotel. After this, it definitely would not surprise me if I were to hear of a complaint about the state of the rooms. Plus, if location was not a priority, then this would not be a place I'd immediately think of recommending to someone.
The above 3 photos were taken from my room balcony. If you're afraid of heights, then avoid the high floors. Otherwise the views are pretty decent. I figure it would be a lot better still if you had a room on the higher floors. It'd be great to wake up to Singapore's city skyline!
Since the pools looked tantalizing from the balcony, I made a trip down the next morning to check it out.
Up close, it looked even better. There was a kiddy-pool and a second 1.8 metre deep pool for adults. There's also a pool side café in case you get hungry or thirsty after doing your (abet short) laps. Do note however, that there's a sign that prominently announces that there's no life guard on duty, so parents please do mind your kids.
The hotel also boasts of a tennis court. I hate racquet games. I have major hand-eye coordination issues, so I didn't bother with that.
If anything, the selling point of Swissotel The Stamford is definitely it's location. It located right on top of a central train station (City Hall) and is linked to a shopping mall. So if you're staying here, you're guaranteed easy access to transport, food and most amenities.
Since it's so central and public transport is so easily accessible, it's also easy for you to move around. During my short stay, I made trips down to Orchard and Bugis for errands and always returned within an hour. Apart from that, I got my meals at Raffles City Shopping Centre (that's the mall linked to the hotel) and did all my birthday shopping there!
Yeah. I kind of over-spent since I got carried away with all the shopping.
Oh and by the way, there's quite a few pokestops  around the hotel if you're into Pokémon Go. I definitely made use of them  ;)
Swissotel The Stamford
Address: 2 Stamford Road, Singapore 178882
DID: +65 6338 8585
Fax: +65 6338 2862

9 Days of Rustic Kyushu, Day 2 (Part 3): Hotel Nikko Huis Ten Bosch

Sunday, 24 July 2016

The Huis Ten Bosch Hotels
Before I actually start writing about Hotel Nikko Huis Ten Bosch, I feel duty-bound to inform you that there are 3 other hotels located within the theme park itself:
1) Hotel Europe
2) Hotel Amsterdam, and
3) Hotel Forest Villa
To be honest, in my personal opinion, the theme park is nothing like Disneyland or Universal Studios. I really didn't see the point of spending an exorbitant amount to stay within the theme park. Though I have to say, on the website, the 3 hotels really look darn good.
However, if you're like me and also not keen on staying within the theme park, there are several other hotel options nearby. In fact, there's a new one that recently opened that's being manned completely by robots! It's just a short walk away from Hotel Nikko Huis Ten Bosch, so you might also want to pop by for a look if you're interested.
While I was doing my research, the price varied quite a bit between these hotels so please be mindful if money is a consideration.  
Day 2: Yobuko Morning Market --> Huis Ten Bosch --> Hotel Nikko Huis Ten Bosch (ホテル日航ハウステンボス)

We opted to stay at Hotel Nikko Huis Ten Bosch, which was a 5 minute (or even less) walk from the entrance of the theme park. Ok, more like I opted since I was the one who planned the entire trip. I've got to say, I'm pretty glad I made the decision to stay at one of the Huis Ten Bosch hotels. The proximity was a god-send in the poor weather. While my parents and I had shouldered on within the theme park (primarily because we could always duck into the many shelters within), it was always a comfort knowing that we could always return to the hotel nearby if we were really sick of the rain.
By the time we decided we had enough of the theme park, we were soaked through and it was almost dinner time. Plus, we actually bought quite a lot of stuff from the various stores within Huis Ten Bosch. I was completely exhausted fighting the rain and carrying all our goodies.

You can imagine how pleased I was when I walked into a clean and spacious room. In fact, given that it's Japan, the land of tiny hotel rooms, I was extremely pleased with the space! It was definitely one of the more spacious hotel rooms we had in this trip. Mom and I didn't have any trouble packing and unpacking from both our luggage at the same time.
Even the bathroom and toilet was decent-sized! I've since learnt that toilets and bathrooms in Japan can be absolutely tiny. I've had previous experiences where I'd bang myself every time I turn around in a tiny Japanese bathroom. Heh. In fact, the first time I toured Japan, I came back with bruises and yeah, they were all gotten in tiny bathrooms.

The view from our hotel room. Unfortunately, we weren't on a high enough floor and hence were blocked from a lovely garden view. But we could still see Huis Ten Bosch from where we were. Since it was raining, we didn't exactly miss much either.

Once we dried ourselves, we went down to the hotel's Japanese restaurant for dinner. Yup, no inclination to head out in the rain anymore. Dinner was again a traditional kaiseki affair. Unfortunately for them though, we had come off a really good one from Ryokan Yoyokaku, so the one at Hotel Nikko Huis Ten Bosch paled a lot in comparison.
Perhaps by then, I was also coming down with a fever so I was not particularly enjoying my food too. All I wanted to do was to get back to our room and sleep. And sleep I did, the bed was pretty comfortable.

Breakfast in the hotel came with a view of the lovely hotel garden. Breakfast was a buffet spread of both Japanese and Western (International) items so it was great to be able to pick and choose whatever we liked. I forgot to grab pictures of the buffet spread (in fact, I consistently forgot about doing it on this trip!) so you'd just have to take my word for it that both the spread and the quality of food was not too bad. Not awesome, but definitely above average.
As we had only stayed a night (and it was a night where I really fell sick), there's really nothing much else I can add about the hotel. Nevertheless, it served us well for that one night stay and I'd recommend it still to anyone who's visiting Huis Ten Bosch readily.

In addition, Hotel Nikko Huis Ten Bosch has a side gate which allows hotel guests to re-enter the theme park. This would be especially useful if you happen to stay during their Kingdom of Light festival (the entire theme park is decked out in lights which from online pictures and reviews seemed really pretty!).
Tourist Information
Hotel Nikko Huis Ten Bosch
Local Name: ホテル日航ハウステンボス
Address: 6 Huis Ten Bosch Machi, Sasebo 859-3243, Nagasaki Prefecture
Local address: 〒859-3243ハウステンボス町6
DID: 0956-27-3000

9 Days of Rustic Kyushu, Day 2 (Part 2): Huis Ten Bosch

Sunday, 17 July 2016

Can you believe that I'm sick again! This is like the second time since I came back from Japan, which is barely 2 months ago! I'm seriously wondering if my immunity is shot. Oh well. Anyway, the point of me saying this, is that I'm now on meds again (boo!). Which means I'm a groggy girl again (double boo!).

So, here's the disclaimer: Just ignore whatever grammatical and/or spelling error that you may spot. Or if the paragraphs sound a bit disjointed...

Huis Ten Bosch (ハウステンボス)

Located in Sasebo, Nagasaki Prefecture, Huis Ten Bosch is a recreation of a Dutch town, or at least, a Japanese version of a Dutch town. If you find the name familiar, that's because the theme park was named after one of the residences of the Dutch royal family. The theme park was opened in 1992.
Interestingly, Huis Ten Bosch had once declared bankruptcy due to falling numbers of visitors and accumulating debt. It has since seen a couple of changes in management and has had quite a bit of money pumped into its re-building.
Huis Ten Bosch has a yearly schedule of events, including light-ups and flower festivals. Make sure you check out what's up (I've added the link to the website below) if planning for a visit.
Day 2: Yobuko Morning Market --> Huis Ten Bosch --> Hotel
The trip from Yobuko Morning Market to Huis Ten Bosch took a while and it was around noon-time when we arrived at our hotel, Hotel Nikko Huis Ten Bosch. As our hotel was located right next to Huis Ten Bosch, we went straight to the hotel first to check in and off-load the luggage. Once that was done, we just crossed the car-park into Huis Ten Bosch.

I have to say, the lobby where we purchased our admission tickets was possibly the first indication of the dissonance that was to come.
Once past a long corridor, we were first greeted by an Easter display. Except, Easter was quite a while back already. And considering that this was supposed to be a Dutch theme park, the display was rather Japan-ified. Then, right next to my left, a display of classic Japan - a anime robot! I was quite amused by all the juxtaposition going on but didn't think too much about it then.
Once we had our tickets in hand, we attempted to enter. And were promptly stopped by the attendants.
Why? Because they spotted my dad holding on to bags of drinks and fruits. Apparently outside food is not allowed into the premises! Even if it was bottled water! So much for wanting to have some fruits during the day. I was also quite irritated that our driver had failed to inform us despite seeing us lug the bags all the way out.
Oh well. Poor weather + Poor health = Poor temperament.
I didn't scream at anyone though. I swear.
Fortunately, there's a locker room along the corridor (Thank ALL the Gods and Goodness!). I wasn't keen to walk all the way back to the hotel, particularly since the rain was getting heavier. We proceeded to deposit the items that were prohibited. Ok, I admit that we smuggled in some bottled water in our bags. Or more like the entire family's drinks into MY shoulder tote (which meant it was freaking darn heavy!). Oh well. I'm the filial daughter.
By the time we crossed the gates into the park, it was getting close to 1 pm. Mom started complaining that it was way past her usual lunchtime and she was getting hungry. Given that the rain was not abating, I was also keen to find some sort of shelter. Hence we just quickly walked in and went searching for food. 
Given that it was a Dutch theme park, I should have expected that most of the restaurants inside were serving Japanese versions of Western cuisine (mostly French, Italian and American). This was a problem because
1) my parents do not take beef for religious reasons and
2) my mom's a fussy eater and is lactose intolerant.

By the time I found a suitable place, we had already walked past quite a portion of the park. Yup, all the way into Amsterdam City (see map below, can click to full size) before we found a fast-food joint. Not the best but a burger joint was the safest option for my parents and I was too tired to continue searching for other food places.
Sasebo Burger House Dom is a nondescript fast food joint that's quite near the Miffy shop in Amsterdam City. I got my dad a pork burger while I went for their Sasebo burger. Ordered mom some fried chicken pieces and nuggets, and topped our meal off with potato wedges, coffee and Coke. Yeah, we all needed our respective caffeine intakes. Heh.
Well, if you don't happen to have fussy eaters like my parents, my advice is to skip this joint and head out to the other places. While the burgers and fried chicken were decent, it was the worst nuggets and potato wedges I've ever had. Cold and unyielding. A serious waste of calories.
By the way, ask for maps/guides in English when purchasing the tickets. As our driver (who spoke Japanese) was the one who got us the tickets, it didn't occur to him (and not me then either) that we would not be able to properly use the ones in Japanese that was passed to him. When I later tried to pick some up from the stands, they were all in Japanese too. Not very tourist friendly. Alternatively, print one (you may wish to use the one above) before you go.


It was still pouring when we were done with lunch. Basically, it was just raining the entire day. Something that really dampened our holiday spirits while in Huis Ten Bosch. In fact, by the time I hit the burger joint, my toms shoes were completely soaked. So you can imagine even after we were done with lunch, I still wasn't too keen to get out and about in the rain. Since we were already quite near the Miffy shop in Huis Ten Bosch, I dragged my parents into the store. Shelter and also shopping!
Heh. Except this round, I was shopping for a friend who loves her rabbits. Not for myself.

Apparently, 2016 is Miffy's 60th anniversary! Well, it was Miffy galore and for someone who's not that into rabbits or Miffy, it was quite overwhelming trying to buy stuff for my friend. There were so many things! From plate-wares to accessories to towels, etc. It was Miffy-everything-you-can-think-of!
In the end, it was mom who helped to choose a pair of cute bedroom slippers. I had gotten so lost amongst all the merchandise, I just surrendered and asked mom for help. Once she narrowed the choices down to the bedroom slippers, I just topped it off with some adorable Miffy stationery.
Except now, I had an additional load to carry in the relentless rain.
By then, my parents figured that the rain was not going to stop at all (darn!). Hence, we decided to go ahead with exploring the theme park instead of just ducking into various shelters. Since we were already at Amsterdam City, that became our start point.

Except, one round around Amsterdam City and we realised that it was mostly shops. There was a carousel too but it was closed due to the rain. If it hadn't been for the rain, I'll have stopped for some photos. Obviously, holding a brolly, lugging a heavy shoulder tote and a bag of gifts affected all that photo-taking mood.
Having said that, it was a good thing that I decided to bring along my compact camera on top of my new Sony a6000. All my photos in Huis Ten Bosch were taken using the compact which despite my best efforts, still got quite drenched too!  In some photos, I even ended up having water spots.

Still, Huis Ten Bosch is a picturesque theme park. The amount of effort that went into details like the very European  architecture is pretty obvious. My parents still lament that it was a pity that it was raining the day we visited or they were very sure that I would have gotten better photos.
On the plus side, since it was pouring, there were very few people who did visit the theme park.  So at the very least, no jostling in the rain. Within Huis Ten Bosch, there were technically other options available to get you around the theme park such as cycling (see photo below) or park shuttles. However, these shuttles cost at least 2,000 yen each time you hop on! Since we weren't willing to spend that sort of money, we just continued to trudge on under our brollies.


My parents and I walked along the canals and proceeded towards Tower City. I decided to skip Thriller City which was on the other side of Amsterdam City. From the reviews I read prior the trip, the rides and attractions in Thriller City were noted to be outdated and unexciting. Also, I really did not see the point of bringing my parents for some Japanese horror house or the likes. They wouldn't have liked it. In addition, those rides and attractions would have cost additional money.
Also, Huis Ten Bosch is home to the One Piece manga exhibits. Those of you who are fans would definitely want to attempt a One Piece cruise ride. My parents though, would not even know what that was.
Instead, as my parents were more interested in sceneries, we just continued walking along the canals, towards Tower City where the main attraction was a full-scale replica of the Domtoren in Holland. Like I said, you really can't fault their attention to details.


The Domtoren in Huis Ten Bosch is a 105 metre tall tower with observatory on its 5th floor. After consulting my parents, they were not inclined to get up to the observatory as they felt that the rain would have marred the views anyway. Otherwise, the observatory would have allowed one to look out across the entire Huis Ten Bosch as well as the Omura Bay.
Well, if it hadn't been rainy, I might also have been able to convince my parents to walk further towards the Forest Villa zone for the replica of the Huis Ten Bosch Palace. Instead from Tower City, we proceeded towards the Art Garden zone. One reason why I chose to include Huis Ten Bosch into our itinerary was because they were hosting a Rose Festival during the period we were visiting. Mom and I love our flowers and hence, we were really more interested in catching their floral display.
Except, when we did get there, we realised that they were still in the midst of preparing for the display! *disappointed*
There were a lot of workers milling about, planting the flowers, checking out the arrangements, etc. Perhaps they figured that a rainy day was a good one to get all the work done since there would be less people milling about and bothering them...

Anyway, when we did get to the rose garden, the rain was really coming down hard and heavy. So guess what we did?

Yup! We ducked into yet another shelter. This time round, a pretty café right in the midst of the rose garden. Ordered ourselves some coffee and hot chocolate while we just waited for the rain to slow to a more manageable drizzle. The coffee and hot chocolate weren't fantastic but the shelter and warmth from the drinks were very much appreciated.

Once the mom decided that the rain had lightened up, we again went on our way to admire the lovely rose gardens.

Despite the gloomy weather and the incomplete work, the rose garden was still extremely lovely. In fact, the lovely rose garden ensnared our attention despite the poor weather, and we spent quite some time walking amongst the lovely flowers.
I couldn't help myself and took a lot of photos of the many varieties and colours of roses. Well, this was how my camera got so badly drenched. I would have loved to return again for a chance to shoot these in sunny weather! Mom even joked that she wanted to come back for a wedding shoot!

I'm telling you, plodding along in wet shoes all day is no joke! So at the very least, the beautiful rose garden made up for it! We enjoyed our time strolling (yes! we were strolling even in the rain!) and before we knew it, we had already walked towards the Fountain Square.

And that's where we were next completely enthralled. But this time by a rainbow balloon display! So bright and colourful! And those sticks hanging down from the balloons? Flashing LED lights! The most cheerful display that entire gloomy day! It brought a smile to all our faces! In fact, my mom insisted on grabbing photos of herself here and I have to say, her smiles here were the brightest!


The colourful display also put us in the perfect mood to shop. We walked into several of their stores and bought quite a lot of stuff! Those boxes next to the rabbit in the picture below? Those were boxes of chocolates. Dad bought a number to give away to his friends. I also grabbed some snacks to give away to friends (2 photos below). Mom on the other hand bought a couple of packets of instant noodles and her favourite jellies (again).


As I was feeling thirsty again, I also bought an iced chocolate drink (photo above). It was seriously good! One of the better chocolate drinks I've had! Rich and thick and full of cocoa! Yummy!

As dad wanted to do a canal boat ride, once we were done with our shopping, we slowly walked back towards the Flower Road. Now this was another extremely picturesque portion of Huis Ten Bosch. Flowers, water and windmills. Another Instagram worthy backdrop. Again, mom insisted on pictures.

Once we were near the entrance, we got into the queue for the boat ride. We were fortunate to get there just in time to clamber onto the boat before it took off. No need to wait at all!
As there weren't many people, we were able to snag 2 rows of seats to ourselves. My parents each had a window seat, while I clambered to the back of the boat to snap photos (yes, in the rain). The ride took us through a round of Hui Ten Bosch. While it took us past some routes where we had already walked, it offered us a different perspective of the place. We also caught a glimpse of some holiday homes within the theme park!

The boat ride marked the last of our time in Huis Ten Bosch. We were pretty exhausted by then, although we did linger in the souvenir shop on the way out. The rain obviously did not help matters at all. So for those of you planning, if it's raining, you may wish to come back another day instead.

Tourist Information

Huis Ten Bosch
Address: Hausutenbosu-machi, Sasebo 859-3243, Nagasaki Prefecture
Local Address: 〒859-3243ハウステンボス町
DID: +81 95-627-0001
Opening Hours: Please refer to website, click on Guide tab, under Schedule
Enquires: Please write in via the website
Admission fees:
I've included a table, but please refer to website for additional information such as attraction prices, hotel discounts, etc.