So here we are, serving our two-week Stay Home Notice (SHN) upon arriving in Singapore in mid-September. As I wrote in my last post, we really scored and landed a five-star hotel, The InterContinental. So what’s it like to pass the time in an admittedly posh setting when you can’t even leave the room?
The idea of two weeks in a hotel room strikes fear in most people as soon as they hear it. What will I do? What will I eat? Will I get any fresh air at all? What about laundry? Can I get deliveries? And most importantly–is there good WiFi? We had months to prepare for and obsess over these questions and more. Now that we face our last few days here, it really has not been that bad at all. Time has gone quickly, and we are still talking to each other.
As soon as Singapore started SHN over a year ago, resources like Facebook groups sprang up shortly after. I started reading the groups casually a few months ago, then more seriously as our departure date approached. People offered tips about how empty or full their inbound flights were, posted photos of their rooms’ views, shared snaps of both good and bad meals, and suggested helpful items to bring along or rent from companies that cater to SHN hotel guests.
So as a pretty serious planner, I headed in to this experience about as well prepared as I could. I did my best to ready the items I could and let go of worrying about everything out of my control.
As loyal martayaki readers already know, we struck SHN lottery paydirt with our random assignment at the five-star Hotel InterContinental, complete with a connecting room for the kids. About the only better scenario I could imagine would be a balcony or opening windows for some fresh air. Some lucky souls in the SHN Facebook groups scored even bigger with random placement at a small apartment, complete with a kitchen, balcony, and washer/dryer.
With three TV’s and strong WiFi, we are definitely connected. On the advice of the Facebook group I packed an HDMI cable, which means I can connect my MacBook to the room TV and stream services like Netflix and Disney Plus that the hotel does not offer. So every evening we gather the four of us for dinner and a movie.
Given our spacious room, we started referring to areas as The Weight Room, The Yoga Studio, The Office, The Music Studio, and The Dining Room, and so on. Granted, the sections overlap a lot–The Office and The Weight Room cannot be used simultaneously. In case of a work call in The Office, The Private Yoga Studio gets pressed into service.
One idea from the Facebook groups that I filed away in the back of my mind was the notion of getting a small table, since hotel rooms generally include only a desk for one person. So as soon as I saw our space I pictured a small lightweight table that we could moved around. I thought of the folding aluminum camp table that we already own and placed in storage during our packout–then found the same table plus a few stools at Decathlon, the world’s biggest sporting goods retailer (though alas, with a very small presence in the US). Two hours after ordering, our table and stools came from a nearby Decathlon store.
Some SHN hotels outsource the catering of three meals a day, and the SHN Facebook photos from those places are pretty grim with a lot of fried, beige, and decidedly not-green-and-leafy offerings. Some hotels ask the guest to state a meal preference during check-in, and the guest may or may not have the chance to change their preference during their stay. Think Western, Asian, Halal, Vegetarian.
Thankfully the InterContinental prepares their food in-house, so overall it’s quite good, if not quite five-star hotel room service caliber. We have a two-week menu with two meal choices listed for each meal, and every morning I scan the QR code and submit the next day’s orders for each of us. It all still gets a little tiresome, and every two or three days we opt for delivered takeout just to give us something to look forward to. Our meals are dropped off at 7:30AM, 12:30PM, and 6:30PM when the staff member leaves the food on a small table outside our door. After he rings the doorbell we wait a few seconds, then don a mask to open the door, shout our thanks down the hallway to the retreating staff member, and retrieve our food.
The room includes an electric kettle and a mini-fridge, and we rented a Nespresso machine from the hotel. We had our Sodastream sparkling water machine with us in the DC hotel, so we have that here too; CO2 canister for it came from Amazon within a few days. We can order groceries and even beer and wine from Amazon, and it comes quickly, often the same day. As much as I would love to use local delivery services instead of supporting the evil Bezos empire, our US credit cards simply didn’t work with the local places. So Amazon it is, until we get set up with local accounts, cards, and a mobile number. Takeout comes from Deliveroo, a service similar to GrubHub in the US that delivers food from area restaurants.
This one worried us quite a bit ahead of time. Both Mark and I exercise most days out in the real/non-quarantine world, so we wondered how to manage with such limited space and resources. Some businesses in Singapore such as Happy SHN even sprang up to fill this need, renting items like stationary bikes and folding treadmills. While we admire people like these two friends who ran a full marathon over Zoom from their respective SHN hotels, we decided to skip the cardio for now and focus on weights and yoga instead. So we packed a yoga mat, small hand weights, and this nifty system of resistance bands from Crossover Symmetry. And that’s how the bathroom door–the door, mind you, and not the bathroom–became The Weight Room, and the space in front of the TV became The Yoga Studio. We do our best to be considerate of each other and ask for time in a given “room.” I feared that it would become a source of tension, but honestly it hasn’t. We each have our own goals and activities, and noise canceling headphones. It’s easy to give each other space.
The SHN Facebook groups prepared us for crazy expensive laundry rates. So we were not too surprised to see the rates of $20SGD ($15USD) for three pieces and $10SGD ($7 USD) for each additional piece, plus a 72 hour turnaround. And that allowance is per room per day, and you cannot “save up” and send three days’ of laundry at once. So we packed a small plastic tub and some laundry detergent, and a friend dropped off a clothesline and clothespins. It’s not as big an issue as I feared since we do not exactly change clothes three times a day to dress for dinner or anything.
As I mentioned in my earlier post, I bought myself an electric guitar in DC and lugged it halfway around the world. I play most days, and with a micro-amp and headphones the electric guitar is much quieter than I ever would have guessed. And again–noise canceling headphones on the other person do wonders. I record my meager guitar playing to my MacBook; playing around with Logic Pro X, A DAW that is essentially a more robust GarageBand, has become another quarantine pastime.
Books, board games, watching movies, sewing, following the news, browsing house listings, and chatting with friends fill the days more than I ever expected.
We also just putter. It’s great. We take long showers, and I futz around longer than necessary simply because I can. Any time it starts raining we stand at the window and watch the clouds roll in. We people watch, noting the progress on the building construction across the street, and the activity at the open-air dining tables on the sidewalk below. And we imagine eating those amazing looking meals for ourselves, and soon.
The hotel does not allow anything to go out of our room, but we can accept deliveries. I already mentioned in-bound food from Amazon Fresh and takeout places. But by far the most fun deliveries come from friends, some of whom I have not actually met in person yet.
Carrie and Karol are both Yokohama friends who moved from Japan to Singapore in the last few years. Both have been incredibly helpful over the last few months as we prepared for our trip. And both brought by food! We placed a Daiso order with Carrie, who very kindly picked up our items and dropped them off, then waved up from the sidewalk. Karol hooked us up with some fresh fruit, including this ginormous melon that provided excellent material for goofy photos. Mark’s new boss Maria brought us assorted snacks and mangos with faces, which brought us yet more photographic joy.
One new friend Karmen also dropped off some chocolate, providing yet another wave-up-from-the-sidewalk opportunity. Karmen and I haven’t met in person yet; a few months ago she moved to Singapore from Texas, where she is friends with Mark’s cousin Sarah. Sarah introduced us via Messenger, and we have been chatting away and look forward to meeting in person. It’s been a lovely surprise to already have so many people ready to welcome us even before our release from Hotel Jail.