Quick escapes and weekend breaks are on the rise among Hong Kongers and Singaporeans—which is hardly surprising when there’s an abundance of public holiday weekends, a shortage of annual leave, and an awful lot of burnout. Without time to escape to beautiful but hard-to-reach destinations, there’s more demand than ever for city wellness escapes—a demand Six Senses are meeting with their two new Singapore properties, Duxton and Maxwell. Opened last year—Duxton in May, and Maxwell in December—the two properties mark the brands first foray into urban retreats and take a unique approach to sustainability and heritage that creates a wellness escape without ever stepping out of the city limits. Compare Retreats Editor Rebecca Cairns steps into the new Maxwell property at Six Senses Singapore to experience the Six Senses urban wellness staycation.
A five-minute walk from the beautiful Buddha Tooth Relic Temple and Chinatown’s main food and shopping streets, Six Senses Maxwell and Duxton (which together make up Six Senses Singapore) are set just beyond the hustle and bustle of the heart of Singapore’s Chinatown in the quiet and quirky neighbourhood of Duxton Hill. The area, formerly a nutmeg plantation, is now filled with coffee shops, restaurants and boutique fitness studios in quaint colonial shophouses, including CruCycle, WeBarre and Yoga Movement. With two MRT stops (Chinatown and Tanjong Pagar) within ten minutes walking distance, guests are ideally located to explore Singapore.
Located just 150 metres apart, each property is situated in beautifully conserved heritage buildings—the last of their kind in Singapore to be used for hotels. Maxwell, between Cook and Murray Street, was formerly 14 traditional shophouses that have been carefully converted by French designer Jacques Garcia into the 138-room boutique hotel. Designed with a regal flair, the furnishings offer a burst of colour in ruby red or turquoise shades.
Each room has a king- or queen-size bed, European-style en-suite bathrooms, mahogany writing desk and fully stocked premium mini-bar—ask for the delicious Singapore snacks to be removed before you arrive if you don’t want the temptation. Each room is individually designed to evoke the heritage of the building, with vintage rugs and a curated selection of artwork on the walls including original 200-year-old Singaporean indentures. Every room is equipped with organic cotton bed linen, towels and robes, individually-controlled AC, bathroom amenities from The Organic Pharmacy, satellite TV, Bluetooth speaker, espresso machine and tea facilities, in-room safe and unlimited WiFi. Additionally, wellness travellers can enjoy some of the ‘healthy’ touches around the room: a reflexology foot massage ball, a mini singing bowl/gong sound therapy set, and during turn-down, naturopathic digestives and a puzzle brain-teaser.
Duxton’s accommodation is similarly equipped, only in a very different style: the renovations were overseen by British designer Anouska Hempel, taking on a more minimalist and modern approach with a black-and-yellow colour scheme through the main part of the hotel. Playing on the hotel’s heritage as shophouses on a street of brothels and opium dens, the hotel offers a chic and playful selection of sultry dark corners and intimate spaces.
The hotel features an in-house restaurant, Murray Terrace Brasserie, where breakfast is served, as well as three drinks and casual dining outlets: the Rose Lounge & Bar, the perfect space for a pre-dinner bellini or glass of bubbly; Garcha’s, an intimate and decadent spirits bar for a post-dinner digestif; and Cook & Tras Social Library, a beautiful space for coffee, cocktails, or a light bite. If you’re a book-lover, then this bar and casual dining space will fulfil all of your library fantasies, with books on every topic lining the walls from floor to ceiling: they have an extensive collection of wellness titles (better than most bookshops) if you fancy brushing up on your zen philosophy or perusing a text on nutrition. It’s a relaxed atmosphere, perfect whether you’re working remotely on a corporate trip, or seeking out an intimate space for a romantic weekend.
Six Senses Maxwell boasts a rooftop pool on the second floor, along with gym facilities and a soon-to-open rooftop bar and organic garden. Additionally, massage pods will be available later in the year. Guests at Duxton are welcome to use the facilities at Maxwell, and vice-versa.
Breakfast is a standard inclusion with a stay at Six Senses Singapore, and guests can choose between dining at the Murray Terrace Brasserie at Maxwell, or the Yellow Pot at Duxton.
The breakfast menu is extensive, covering everything from light bites, to ‘indulgent’ dishes and a dedicated wellness breakfast menu. Breakfast includes tea and coffee, pressed juices, and optional freshly baked pastries and bread with jams.
While the restaurant is European-centric, the menu incorporates in Singaporean produce in a way that makes the dishes really pop: eggs benedict with crab, for example, brought together a classic Singaporean staple with a timeless western brunch dish. While the dish was in the ‘indulgent’ section of the menu (undoubtedly for the delicious buttery hollandaise sauce), the chef skipped on the classic English Muffin accompaniment so this dish didn’t feel heavy and was protein packed with two poached eggs, a healthy portion of kale and a generous amount of crab.
The full English-style breakfast looked like any other breakfast fry-up, but the baked beans were replaced with local Singaporean red beans and the standard pork sausage replaced with a beautifully spiced lamb kofta. These small attentions to Singaporean food heritage and the local sourcing gives the restaurant a unique edge, and it was a wonderful taste of Singapore from a brand new angle.
The evening menu is equally as attentive to food quality and sourcing, and I’d recommend spending at least one of your dinners in The Murray Brasserie. The vine tomato and watermelon salad was fresh, light and tasty, perfect for the tropical heat outside; while the grass-fed Australian ribeye was a beautiful cut of meat, served with potato gratin and braised kale, which was easily one of the tastiest vegetable dishes I’ve ever had. There’s plenty on the menu for vegetarians and those looking to eat healthier, but the beauty of Six Senses is that their careful attention to sourcing means you can eat meat and fish in good conscience knowing its the best of the best and reputably farmed.
Six Senses Singapore doesn’t have any set wellness retreats yet, but the hotel provides the foundations of a healthy staycation for city explorers, which can be built on for the more health-conscious.
Complimentary yoga sessions are offered every Thursday and Sunday at 8am with Sue, a local Singaporean Yoga Practitioner. Held under the shade of a small urban park behind the hotel on Duxton Hill, the 90-minute session includes deep stretching and singing bowl meditation. Bikes are also available for those not afraid of sweating it out in Singapore’s tropical climate as they explore the city.
Six Senses Singapore focuses on building community and working with local businesses to provide unique cultural experiences for guests. Guests can request a personalised TCM consultation with a specialised TCM expert, who can suggest natural remedies and lifestyle enhancements based on a short interview. One of the best experiences I had in Singapore was the Chinese Tea Appreciation Workshop at Yixing Xuan Teahouse just 100 metres from the hotel. Giving an overview to tea as a whole, Gladys explained the process from plantation to teapot, showed us the four different tea types (white, green, oolong, black), talked us through the method to make the perfect cup of tea (we discovered we’ve been stewing our tea British-style for far too long), and let us sample one of each type. Her knowledge of the teas, including histories and anecdotes about their names, healing properties and different uses were incredible and such a brilliant experience.
It’s the little touches that make the difference at Six Senses: the entire hotel is built around wellness as a lifestyle, so even if you’re not there for a dedicated wellness escape, you can keep up your own wellness habits as your travel with the gym, the pool, and wellness accessories around the hotel. Later in 2019, Six Senses Maxwell will be unveiling spa pods, which will enable guests to relax and unwind after their day exploring the city.
Expect to feel relaxed—which is usually something that’s very hard to achieve when you’re having a city break. The mix of the location and atmosphere in the hotel instantly create a refuge from the fast pace of Singapore and a shelter from the chaos of Chinatown a few streets away. If you’re looking to strictly adhere to your wellness regime while you travel, Six Senses Singapore provides a supportive environment to do that, giving you a taste of Singapore’s fascinating heritage in a luxury boutique setting.
The commitment to sustainability. Six Senses are renowned for their dedication to environmental causes and practices, and each resort (including Singapore) has its own Sustainability Manager to oversee sustainability, make improvements, and search out better solutions to waste. Six Senses Singapore are only the second and third hotels (Duxton and Maxwell respectively) in Singapore to be carbon neutral, and they take great lengths to ensure they minimise their environmental impact through reusing, recycling and refusing certain materials, like single-use plastics. From the cocktail decorations (dehydrated orange skins) to the soaps in the guest bathrooms (sent to be recycled as part of a social initiative Clean The World) there is no area too small to be overlooked as making an environmental impact. Later this year, Six Senses Singapore will open its own Earth Lab and is currently growing a rooftop garden where guests can engage in making their own homegrown drinks and cocktails.
Six Senses Singapore is all about integrating wellness habits into the everyday. Enjoy a short complimentary singing bowl welcome experience, and look out for the selection of wellness accessories in your room and at turn-down service. The hanging gongs by reception are not just decorative—if you’re looking for a quick five minutes to unwind, try a little self-led sound meditation with these beautiful sound plates.