F Middle Eastern mystic - jeepneyjinggoy

Middle Eastern mystic

Landmark Village Hotel, right at the center of the culturally rich Arab quarter and Klampong Glam

THE "hospitality" in Far East Hospitality, owner and operator of the largest hospitality portfolio in Singapore with seven hotels and 11 residences, is taken at heart. Its brand of Village Hotels & Residences offers authentic, friendly, comfortable and memorable stays, and presents its guests an experience of the Lion City's local culture and indigenous offerings of the communities where its properties are located.

"If you like to do what the locals do, then check into one of the Village Hotels to experience the rich cultural and ethnic flavors within the surroundings," said Sharon Vu, Far East's Marketing Communications Manager.

And that we did.

Along with Kenneth O. of Edge, we were welcomed from a red-eye flight by Eugene Lee, Business Development Manager, and whisked off on a sleek black limousine to our first hotel, the Landmark Village Hotel, right at the center of the culturally rich Arab quarter and Klampong Glam.

The hotel's pool, al fresco dining area & deluxe room

It wasn't until daylight when we finally saw how conveniently located the 393-room hotel is. After meeting the charming hotel General Manager, Chew Yun Meng, and Far East MarCom Executive, Dennis Yong, we started our exploration of the neighborhood where the mixture of old and new architecture was strikingly contrasting.

The Landmark VIllage Hotel  as seen from Arab Street

The area holds Singapore's largest mosque, the gold-domed Masjid Sultan, the Malay Heritage Center and the Hajjah Fatima Mosque. Shopping is made alluring at the Arab Street, and the bargain hunter's paradise of Victoria Street, while second-hand treasures can be discovered at the Thieves Market. The charming shop-houses lining the Haji Street, said to be the "smallest street" in the city, and Bali Lane are now homes to young, talented clothes designers, cafes, bars and graffiti-walled restaurants. Not far away, the contemporary retail shops clustered at the Bugis Junction and Iluma, while more retail havens are a stop or two away via the MRT at the Bugis Station.

 Singapore's largest mosque, the gold-domed Masjid Sultan

The oldest Islamic school in Singapore

Kenneth O. shooting the narrowest vehicle accessible street in Singapore

Funky & chic shops along Haji Street. Have a tattoo, a bike or learn chess, binge on cakes that can make you fat, dine on a Paris-trained chef's cooking or leave your personal notes on the posts and walls of this street where graffiti is legal.....and encouraged.

Old shop houses still shine

There could be a better person to tour the neighborhood than Andrew Tan, Landmark's Assistant Front Office Manager, who is adept in the history of the area and the country as well. Each must-see was pointed out and how it is important to the area. Proof to how fast changing Singapore is, Andrew is even surprised with new shops popping up in the area, shops that were not in the area since his previous visit.

More importantly is the food. Just like any area, the food is an essential part of its history. In the area around the Landmark Village Hotel, there are the dining spots that the locals are loyal to like the Le Bistro Parisiene, a small French restaurant ran and owned by a local chef trained in France, the Kampong Glam Cafe where Andrew made us try the Singapore Tea, an old popular joint still with no name, the delicious Kaya roll popularized by the Rich and Good Cake Shop.

Singaporeans love food. In this area alone, there is a multitude of restaurants to choose from.

The best must have been saved for last. With Yun Meng, Andrew, Dennis, Eugene and Kenneth at the award-winning Mooie Chin Place of the Landmark Village Hotel, we were served a delicious spread of its reputed Hainanese cuisine. I will recommend the Hainanese Black Chicken and the Sweet Yam in coconut milk along with other must-trys - the Pomfret Sambal, Hainanese Mutton Soup, Hainanese Pork Chop and Hofan Noodles.

The sumptuous Hainanese spread of an award-winning restaurant- Mooie Chin Place at the Landmark Village Hotel

Lunching with men in ties. Kenneth & I with Landmark Village Hotel's GM Chew Yun Meng, Far East Hospitality's Dennis Young & Eugene Lee, & Landmark's resident historian & Asst. Front Office Manager Andrew Tan.

Maybe you'll say you've been to the Arab quarter and Klampong Glam, but I say I have SEEN it. I still have to taste a lot of the offering though. At least I have something to look forward to on my next visit to Singapore and this hotel that exudes a Middle Eastern mystique.

Landmark Village Hotel is at 390 Victoria Street, Singapore 188061. For reservations, call 1800-737-3279 or visit their website at www.stayvillage.com

Published in the Sun.Star Davao newspaper on January 26, 2012.