Readers familiar with Japan will be aware of the ‘capsule hotel’ concept, whereby frazzled salarymen save themselves time and money by spending the night in what is essentially an oversized coffin. It might not sound appealing, but to find out more, Hotelintel.co checked in to the Chic Capsule Otel in the heart of Singapore’s Chinatown.
USD $33 gets you one of the 14 capsules in a large room, and access to the shared bathroom down the stairs. Five-star aficionados may doubt that such a rate would even guarantee electricity and running water, but this hotel actually isn’t aimed at backpackers; that particular demographic is especially price-sensitive, and there are hostels offering beds at half the price just round the corner. Nevertheless, if a room at the Pan Pacific Hotel which is hosting HICAP sounds a better bet, you’d be right – but that’s not quite a fair comparison, so let’s approach this from a different perspective.
Singapore Airlines (SQ) is a renowned 5-star carrier with an outstanding First Class product. One of the earliest adopters of lie-flat seating, the airline’s latest offering converts to a bed measuring 82 inches by 35 inches, with “crisp linen, fluffy pillows and a plush duvet to create an even better sleeping experience.” For added comfort in the sky there is a “signature plush padded headboard,” while “side panels provide a clear demarcation of personal space.”
On the ground, the Chic Capsule Otel offers a bed which is just as long, but slightly wider. In terms of marketing, the owners may have missed a trick in failing to talk up the fact that the bed comes with bedding, but the pillow was fine. The padded headboard experience, while not quite ‘signature’, was ideal for preventing me
banging my head on the wall and waking the person in the next bed. And those walls, by the way, do a perfect job in demarcating space and ensuring total privacy, with a thick roll-down blind to close the entrance.
In the air, entertainment is vital, and SQ has an extensive system presented through “a 24-inch LCD screen and award-winning Bose QuietComfort 15 noise-cancellation headphones.” There is also a “harmonized lighting environment” with a “stylish reading light” which “provides a conducive environment for reading.”
Once again, however, the Chic Capsule Otel is equal to the challenge. Every guest has a personal Smart TV with headphones, and fast, free WiFi, while the individual lighting options include the main light and a flexible reading light. The main room is kept in darkness for the convenience of all the guests.
One weakness of the capsule experience may be the bathrooms. Six spacious shower and toilet units are available maximum of 40 guests. They are spotlessly clean, with amenities provided, though a short wait might be necessary if the hotel is fully booked. This still stacks up well against SQ, however, where passengers are obliged to wait for their shower until the plane lands.
A selection of sandwiches, fruit, tea and coffee is offered for breakfast, along with the nice touch of an evening chocolate mint before bed, though SQ’s “selection of gourmet masterpieces” probably wins this category. The hotel also offers a free airport transfer three times daily and discounted tickets to various Singapore attractions.
In the final reckoning, there’s no doubting SQ’s quality but the Chic Capsule Otel exceeded expectations and provided a good night’s sleep for USD $33 in the heart of downtown Singapore. SQ’s cheapest First Class option on the other hand will set you back USD $2,540 more, and leave you in Mumbai, which is no good for the MRT no matter how you look at it..