Cube is a brand new mini-hotel concept in Singapore where your bed is a box that you enter from the foot end of your bed. It has a long list of advantages compared to the old traditional hostel, where your bed is separated from your neighbor’s by a curtain and an aisle. It also has a some disadvantages.
But let me first introduce you to Sleepy Sam. Her full name was actually Samantha but everybody called her Sam and she was the owner of a hostel in Bussorah Street named Sleepy Sam’s. I was faithful to her and stayed here for over ten years whenever I was in Singapore. I even kept coming back for years after she sold it to a Kiwi who renamed it Sleepy Kiwi – what a genius – because he kept key staff like the cleaner and the receptionist and we knew each other by first name. However, the Kiwi never spent money on maintenance so the last few times I stayed there, I was starting to question why I kept coming back?
Still, it was a bit of a shock when during my latest Singapore trip I stood in front of “my” Sleepy Sam’s and the sign now said Cube Boutique Capsule Hotel and Singapore Visitor Center. At first I thought I would go somewhere else, but then I got stubborn: This was my place in Singapore, never mind what name they would give it! It also helped that the building had clearly been totally renovated and I was curious to see what was left of the old place inside.
It was not going to be that easy, though. When I walked in, Cheryl at the reception apologized, but they were simply not ready yet. When she learned that I was going to stay for three nights she suggested, however, that I should find somewhere else to stay for the first two nights. Then I could come back for the third night and stay as a pioneer guest – possibly even at a good price if I wrote an email and explained my emotional attachment to the place.
So I did.
And what a change!
There is absolutely nothing sleepy about Cube. It is smart, modern, cool and clean and hardly recognizable.
The interior of the building is divided into a number of rooms with each room carrying the name of one of the surrounding streets. Inside each room, you will find from 8 to 14 beds each in their own luxury capsule with everything a traveller needs.
Once inside, it feels like you are in an astronaut seat – all your controls are within arms reach. The reading light and smoke detector is right above you, to your side is a safe with own programmable lock, above it your air ventilation, next to the safe there is a a fold-down table and inside this there are two electric outlets – each of them even with two USB ports! Further down towards your feet there is another cupboard similar to your safe only without the lock and finally down by the rabbit hole entrance there is a curtain for your privacy and a dimmer for the main light in your capsule.
Your suitcase goes under your bed with a lock on the cabinet door and your shoes goes in another cupboard by the entrance to your room. All doors and cupboards are controlled by the single key card that you get when checking in.
And the main feature – the bed? Oh yes! The bed is soft and comfortable with a thick duvet and the bedding includes two pillows. When you arrive, you will find a towel and sippers, a bottle of water and even a toothbrush set on the bed.
Sam would have loved the toilets which she was constantly struggling with. The renovated Cube toilets are completely hauled over! They include hot and cold shower behind a glass sliding door and the owners have thankfully installed the missing toilet sprays – something all five star hotels could learn from.
Breakfast is included. It is served buffet style in the kitchen, but you are welcome to bring your plate and coffee out on the porch where you can sit and watch locals hurry by getting ready for their busy days.
Is it better? Well, go back and read again from “And what a change”. Of course it is better! There is still a lower and an upper bed, but when you are sleeping in the lower bed, you no longer see the bulging underside of the mattress in the bed above you. And when you are sleeping in the upper bed, you no longer shake back and forth when the guy below you turns over. When you are brushing your teeth, you are no longer competing with the other guy about whose turn it is to use the sink while the water from the drain is leaking out on the floor. And when a young couple comes home late, you are no longer an involuntary witness to their romantic encounter.
Yes, oddly enough, I do actually miss the closeness which all these inconveniences forced upon us guests. I took the initiative to talk to a guest this morning over breakfast, and he was happy I did. He also missed the atmosphere of old style hostels that fosters guest-to-guest talks.
I mentioned this when I had an opportunity to talk to the owner, Benedict Choa and his wife Sonia Anya who were going over the many points on the last minute missing-list before the opening. They seemed surprised that doing away with the missing privacy of the old hostel concept could actually have a negative impact on the cherished interaction between the guests. And paradoxically, the wonderful cleanliness of the rooms and toilets could actually contribute to this.
Both Benedict and Sonia are very nice people; dynamic, charismatic and obviously successful. This Cube Capsule Boutique Hotel is their second in less than a year and more are already on the way. Soon the concept will be written into a franchise model and spread to other capitals of the region. The first Cube has achieved ISO certification. Money is seemingly not a problem.
I think the key to the future reputation and repeat visitor rate of the Cube will be much like the old Sleepy Sam’s – it will be in the hands of the people, they manage to attract. In particular the breakfast staff, but not only them. Here are a few examples:
Yesterday, before he knew that I as going to write this article, one of the staff, Mr. Sadi, came out to me on the porch where I was sitting and offered me a bottle of cold water. He greeted me again this morning. I have mentioned the kind receptionist Cheryl and I also want to introduce the marketing manager Mr. Yunus, to you. And last but not least Eve, who is in charge of the Singapore Visitor Centre. This concierge service is an integrated part of the Cube business concept. All of them are clearly excited about being part of the Cube concept and it shows.
Last night Eve helped me finding an Internet cafe – a fast vanishing commodity in Singapore – and this morning she recommended me a great Italian restaurant for my business lunch meeting which was just around the corner.
None of them may remember me on my next visit, but a relationship is a two way street and I will be back here until they do.