A mecca for hip cafés and haute bars, Keong Saik Road in Singapore’s Chinatown is today a far cry from its red light district notoriety of the 1960s. Among the vibrant façades is that of Hotel Soloha, a stylish boutique hotel that celebrates local heritage and the jungle that once claimed this landscape.
Owned by Hilltop Capital Pte Ltd, the hotel was designed by architectural firm Asolidplan and its modish interiors outfitted by Avalon Collective. Indigo wooden shutters and panel doors conceal an explosion of design from the five-foot way. Inside, art reigns supreme, from the surrealist mural at the entrance by Ethrisha Liaw to the invitation to artistic collaboration posted by the U-shaped bar that functions as reception and concierge on one side and drinks central on the other.
Soloha, a portmanteau of “so aloha” to indicate a zest for life, is an archetypal base for the digital nomad. It combines connectivity and convenience — highspeed internet, ample charging outlets and smart room controls — with the luxury and comfort necessary for relaxation.
Take for instance, the communal table against a street-facing window. Ideal for co-working or kicking back, it is kitted out with comfortable bar stools and a refreshment corner. Sunlight pours in extravagantly, brightening the workspace and highlighting the ceramics, glassware and Peranakan-themed jewellery displayed on a repurposed floor-to-ceiling medicine cabinet that divides the foyer and Takeshi Noodle Bar.
Doubling as the breakfast zone, this in-house ramen joint serves Singapore’s first mala seafood ramen in tonkotsu broth but visitors also return for the vintage-inspired set-up. Pinned onto cork panels are Polaroids of happy memories made here and netted brass fittings on the ceiling give the dining venue a gilded crown. Velvet and rattan seats, terrazzo-topped tables and design tomes fi t the mood of the space, underscored by the haunting vocals of Amy Winehouse emanating from the vinyl record player.
The 45 bedrooms span categories ranging from deluxe to lofts and suites with outdoor bathtubs, spread across four floors. Each has its own spirit animal as a guiding concept: The snail theme on the ground floor, for instance, is evident in a neon sign and corridor carpeting.
Access to the upper floors is via a glass-backed elevator whose ascent and descent provide the only view of a 13m mural by contemporary visual artist Danielle Tay. Titled Spirit of the Forest, it strives to infuse a sense of adventure into eight panels through exotic animals such as a peacock, leopard and racoon.
Room configurations vary — some boast a skylight while a steep ladder separates living and sleeping quarters in the lofts. Although relatively compact, they are cleverly furnished with marble, dark wood and modular fixtures to maximise space and comfort.
Fun accents include cushions commemorating local customs and treats as well as idiosyncratic framed collages. Beds and pillows are fi rm but enveloping, and bedsides are equipped with reading lamps and smart televisions for the companionship of Spotify or Netflix. Amenities include safety boxes, adjustable mood lighting and sustainable dispensers for soaps and shampoos. Bathrooms are fi tted with powerful Hansgrohe rain showers while the outdoor bathtubs exclusive to two suites off er some degree of privacy — but be sure to keep a swimsuit on.
Hands down the best spot, however, is the private courtyard on the second floor. Chill out by the balcony with a cocktail or laze away in one of the oversized rattan lounges surrounded by potted plants. This cosy nook unites the best of both worlds as it brings the outdoors and a touch of nature into the chic hotel. A more apt name might have been hard to find. If “so aloha” does indeed suggest an extremely laidback, happy vibe, Soloha succeeds in cultivating that in spades with its urban jungle and tropical modernist attitude.
Soloha Singapore, 12 Teck Lim Rd, Singapore. +65 6222 8881.
This article first appeared in issue No. 94, Winter 2019 of Haven.