Dispatch, Singapore: The Hotel Jen Tanglin, clever and fun

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Senior editor Robert Silk traveled to Singapore on Singapore Airlines' first nonstop service from the U.S. since 2013. Read his first dispatch; his second dispatch follows.

SINGAPORE -- Sitting at dinner with Kristin Goh, a communications coordinator for Hotel Jan Tanglin in Singapore, I described the hotel by what I viewed as the clever moniker "upscale hip."

But she demurred.

"We try to avoid the word 'hip,'" Goh responded, saying that the newest brand in the Shangri-La Hotels and Resorts umbrella instead focuses its branding on words like "adventure" and "independent."

I bring up this conversation, I suppose, because it reflects the interesting vagaries of perception. What's in a word anyway? But the bottom line on the Jen is that I liked it.

The Jen Tanglin, located near central Singapore, completed a $31.5 million renovation of its lobby, its 565 guestrooms and its 17th floor Club Lounge last January. It's one of 10 properties that Shangri-La has thus far converted from its staider line of Traders business-centric hotels to the Jen line.

Jen Tanglin still attracts a largely business clientele, Goh told me, but on weekends Singaporean families fill up the rooms for short holidays.

One word that Goh and I would both agree describes the property is "contemporary," and the hotel's many modern elements, such as power stations throughout its public spaces and the universal power sockets that rendered the $14 Singapore adapter I purchased ahead of my trip useless, attest to that description.

But beyond modern, the Jen design is clever and fun.

Let's start first with the clever part. I was impressed by how efficiently the designers have used the space in the modestly sized 280-square-foot rooms.

My room's ironing board, for example, was stowed in a pullout drawer beneath the sofa. And in place of a more space-consuming desk was a narrow high table, big enough for work but not intrusive enough to use the valuable square footage that instead remained available for the king-size bed, the sofa and a small refrigerator.

As for the fun part of the Jen, there's a youthful energy in the decor, both in public spaces and within rooms. The sofa in my room, for example, featured pillows with a message. One read, "Keep calm and take selfie." The room's wallpaper, meanwhile, displayed a bicycle with the bike's specs written out over the depiction.

That bicycle theme extends into the hotel's lobby, where actual bicycles hang from the wall, and to its entrance, where colorful bikes are lined up and available for free use by hotel guests.

Another playful element of the lobby is its lounge chairs, styled after the wide first-class seats of an airplane. I consider that "upscale hip." But maybe "chic" would be a better word.

During my two nights at the hotel, I took only one meal, a breakfast in the Club Lounge, where I enjoyed the broad view of the central Singapore skyscrapers as well as the many construction cranes that attest to the city's continued growth.

Jen Tanglin also has the Southeast Asian restaurant J65, the Chinese restaurant Ah Hoi's Kitchen and the cafe Jen's Kitchen On-the-Go.

I did find time during a sleepless, jet-lagged early morning to swim laps in the hotel's outdoor pool and to soak in the whirlpool that is part of its spa.

Nothing particularly hip about that, I suppose. But what's in a word anyway?

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