Villa Samadhi Review: A promising rustic getaway that needs to work out its kinks
Updated: Jun 8, 2021
Sorely missing my trip to Bali where I stayed in a lovely villa, I asked around for suggestions on a similar retreat in Singapore.
One of my friends suggested Villa Samadhi, located in Labrador Nature Reserve. Looking at its rooms on the website, they did exude a relaxing Balinese vibe. I was intrigued by the boutique colonial hotel concept as well, with Villa Samadhi being housed in a restored 1920 black-and-white garrison.
Also, it’s a much more affordable alternative to hotels with a similar aesthetic, such as Raffles Hotel and Barracks Hotel. I’d love a staycay in one of those, but the heart-stopping prices ( $700 and up a night for Barracks and $1000 plus for Raffles) always prevent me from hitting that reserve button.
As such, I decided to book a one-night stay at Villa Samadhi the day before Hari Raya Puasa, from 12th to 13th May this year. I was pleased to find that the hotel had an early check-in and late check-out deal for both days as well.
Looking at rates on several sites, booking directly on the hotel’s site was the most affordable.
Surprisingly, rates for late check-out (check-out by 8pm) and normal check-out were exactly the same. It was pretty much a no-brainer to go for the late check-out deal, which set me back $327 including taxes for a standard Crib room. I also got the following perks which I thought were pretty sweet:
• Earliest check-in at 8am and latest check out is at 8pm the next day
• Complimentary welcome drink upon arrival
• Complimentary fruit basket on the first night
• One complimentary afternoon tea served at the Library
• One complimentary sundowners for an hour for 2
• One complimentary a la carte breakfast for 2
• Signature turndown service
• 15% discount on Food & Beverage at Tamarind Hill Singapore (the restaurant right next to the hotel)
I didn't end up taking advantage of the early check-in option, and checked in around 2 plus in the afternoon.
The place isn’t actually as inaccessible as it seems. Located at Labrador Villa Road, it’s roughly a 10-minute walk from Labrador MRT. The walk uphill to the hotel isn’t steep at all, so unless you're carrying lots of luggage it should be manageable.
If coming by taxi or Grab, do ask the driver to take the first right turn (you’ll see a sign) after going up the hill - or else you’ll land at the adjacent restaurant Tamarind Hill.
As soon as we reached the hotel, a hotel employee dressed in their signature white sarong uniform came out to greet us.
Check-in was smooth and fuss-free, and I loved the old-school look of the check-in desk. We were also greeted by a huge Buddha statue at the lobby upon our arrival.
We did have to fill out paper forms upon our arrival, which I found a little puzzling. After all, sustainability does seem to be a big part of Villa Samadhi’s ethos, so an online check-in form would make more sense.
We were also given a breakfast order form to fill out, which had to be passed to the front desk by 8pm that evening.
The hotel itself is indeed a lovely and very photogenic colonial building. It consists of two floors and an adjacent section which houses their Sarangs (rooms with private whirlpools) and Luxe Sarang ( the most expensive suite with a living area, outdoor garden and private pool).
I do have to mention that the upper floor ventilation isn’t so fantastic. Whilst the rooms are all air-conditioned, the rest of the building isn’t. It rained earlier on the day we came, and the hotel had closed all the windows on the upper floor to keep the rain out.
After the rain stopped, it seemed like they forgot to open it, and the whole second floor got really stuffy for the entire day. I overheard other guests commenting on this as well so it wasn’t just me.
I stayed in a standard Crib room located on the second floor - or what Villa Samadhi refers to as the ground floor.
Some other reviews on Google and Booking.com do describe the room as somewhat spartan, and I’m inclined to agree.
Yes - it had your standard amenities such as television (with limited channels), sizeable wardrobe, safe and bathroom amenities like a hairdryer, shampoo, conditioner, face and body towels, shower cap, toothbrush, toothpaste and bedroom slippers. The toothpaste was a chewable tablet that left a rather weird taste in your mouth.
I was glad to see a welcome fruit basket as we entered, as well as a hand sanitiser and face masks.
But what was sorely lacking was at least one chair to sit on besides the bed. I could do without a study desk - after all this isn’t the kind of place you come to do any serious work.
Yes- there isn’t much space in the room for an extra chair, but I felt they could work with that they had. With two sweaty people coming back to the room after an afternoon walk, one doesn’t exactly want to sit on the bed whilst waiting for the other to finish showering.
Each room also has an outside seating area on the terrace, which is lovely for sipping tea or reading a book. But because the windows outside were shut on our first day, it was far too stuffy to be out there for an extended period.
I thought their padlock system was also rather problematic. Instead of a keycard, you get one traditional key, with the door being padlocked from the outside.
This makes it hard for one guest to go out and the other to stay in the room. You can’t leave with the door being padlocked from the outside, so you have to wait for your partner to return first.
Also, whilst the room was generally clean, there were some dirty areas upon closer inspection. Water is served in copper jugs (which apparently have numerous metabolic and healing benefits), but the mugs themselves have some questionable dark stains on the inside and didn’t look clean to drink from.
We also spotted a dead bee in our room, as well as a few orangey-stains (no idea what they were) on the wall tiles. And when peeling back the blinds, it seemed like some black stains (mold?) had gathered at the bottom.
I get that the hotel is going for rustic-luxe, but in this case it did seem more rustic than luxe. The occasional critter doesn’t bug me ( pardon the pun). After all, we were in the heart of Labrador Nature Reserve. However, I felt that the mugs as well as the blinds could have been cleaned more thoroughly as part of hygiene protocols.
Critiques aside, there were some lovely touches. Though the room wasn't big, the high ceiling meant that it didn’t get claustrophobic. Note: the high ceiling leads to the air-con working extra hard to cool the room. Do set it on full blast if you don’t want to end up feeling stuffy.
The spacious bathroom was definitely a plus. I loved the ‘explorer type’ scroll they laid out on our bed too, with a lovely welcome note and brief description of the area.
Design details like the old-school luggage case on top of the wardrobe, chandelier and four poster bed were a charming throwback to the ‘Marco Polo” colonial era too.
Inside the wardrobe, there are two Samadhi Sarongs you can wear during your stay (and bring home for a fee). I tried one on for a while, and it was indeed quite comfortable. No complaints about the comfy bedsheets and bed too.
Afternoon tea & sundowners
We had our afternoon tea in The Library- what you could call the hotel’s lounge. There is also a quaint bar, though it wasn’t in operation due to the current Covid situation.
Whilst not a big space, the Library is a lovely, elegant place for tea and cocktails. Here, it seems like time slows down - somewhere you could sit around and chat for hours or indulge in a good book. There’s even a bed you can chill on, and a small book selection in a glass casing.
I would have loved to see more books available though - perhaps a few travel guides and some board games which would fit in perfectly with the hotel’s vibe.
Afternoon tea was a slightly underwhelming affair. Our set consisted of two egg sandwiches, scones (with accompanying clotted cream and pineapple jam), macaroons, fresh fruit, and a pot of tea.
No complaints about the food itself, but the tea set is definitely more a ‘light bite’ and I wished there was more variety. That being said, I didn’t actually ask for any refills. You could try asking if you feel the portion isn’t substantial. Our welcoming drinks (they were either mocktails/juices or cocktails) were rather diluted as well, and we couldn’t taste much flavour.
However, the sundowners that were part of our hotel package more than made up for the lackluster tea. Perhaps it’s because these were given to us at the adjacent Thai restaurant Tamarind Hill.
We had a free-flow happy hour between 6pm to 7pm, and you can choose to sit at the restaurant’s beautifully-decorated lobby or near the bar. The drinks were good stuff too - we had a decent choice of housewine, draft beer, cocktails and mocktails.
I tried all the cocktails and found the old fashion and lychee martini to be particular standouts. They were well-mixed with a generous amount of alcohol ( just the way I like it)!
We didn’t have dinner at the restaurant because of the high prices - expect to pay around $30 and up for each main course. Instead, we walked out to Alexandra Retail Centre, which was about 10 minutes away.
As mentioned, you fill out a form for ala-carte breakfast the night before and are allowed to choose one hot dish per person, as well as a fresh juice and premium teas.
There’s a decent variety of western and Asian options - we chose French toast and waffles.
Breakfast is served until 10:30am at Tamarind Hill’s pleasant outdoor patio with partial sea views.
Besides the hot dish, each guest also gets a decent breakfast platter with yoghurt, granola, croissants, yummy pineapple jam and fruits.
Whilst not the best hotel breakfast I’ve had ( that honour goes to The Kitchen Table at W Hotel), the food was tasty and more than enough to fill us up. The hot dishes were portioned well too.
I especially enjoyed the delicious pineapple juice, and the staff were kind enough to give us refills of the juices.
If there’s one aspect where Villa Samadhi particularly shines, it’s no doubt the 5-star service. Our service staff Kai Jun, who checked us in and tended to our requests during our stay - was indeed a lifesaver.
I embarrassingly ran out of sanitary pads on the first day. With the walk to the nearest mall benign at least 10 to 15 minutes away, I had no choice but to approach him and ask if any of the female staff could spare me one.
He was completely undaunted by my request ( perhaps they’ve had weirder ones). Unfortunately, the female staff didn't have any pads. But he arranged to check with the female employees at Tamarind Hill next door, where we were heading to for sundowners.
As luck would have it, one of the waitstaff at Tamarind Hill did have what I desperately needed, and passed it to me discreetly when I approached her at the restaurant.
And at night, when the air-con wasn’t running at full blast, I called the hotel reception for assistance.
In what seemed like two second, ‘The Flash’ Kai Jun came knocking on our room door and helped us adjust the settings. Granted, the lobby was just downstairs, but he was still really efficient! When we called the reception the next day to report some minor leaking from our air-con, he was quick to call someone to inspect it too.
We forgot to pay for a snack we ordered at Tamarind Hill during our sundowners as well. When we reminded the reception the next day and requested to make payment, they graciously waived the bill.
And though the hotel’s reception was rather busy when we checked out, Kai Jun still accommodated my request to have a short tour of the more upscale Sarangs with private whirlpools. You can check the pictures out below.
Booking my stay, I already knew that the hotel lacked amenities like a gym, spa and pool. It is, after all, marketed as a back-to-nature retreat. And you can’t fault boutique hotels for lacking such amenities.
You can walk over to the nearby Labrador park and nature reserve for a run or gentle stroll. But other than that, there isn’t really much to do around the area. We got pretty bored the next afternoon, and didn't make use of our 8pm late check-out perk.
I would have loved at least a bicycle rental service, as I was keen on cycling around Labrador Park and even researched bicycle rental options (there were none) before the stay. Or maybe a curated tour of the building and the Labrador area, considering that both places are rich in local history.
I hear that the hotel is building a spa and pool ( we saw the grounds being dug out for it), though they likely won’t make an appearance anytime this year. Whilst I suspect spa treatments would cost a bomb (let’s face it, hotel spa prices are rather bank-breaking) , a spa would work perfectly well with the hotel’s rustic-luxe branding.
Other Villa Samadhi properties in Kuala Lumpur and Tioman have gorgeous pools too, and I would love a nice dip in this tranquil setting.
With various kinks like a faulty air-con, poor ventilation along the second floor, the questionable padlock system and some aspects of the room that required further cleaning, Villa Samadhi is presently more rustic than luxe.
Whilst my stay wasn’t perfect, the service was amazing and I did enjoy breakfast and sundowners at Tamarind Hill. Housed in a beautiful building, the hotel has a great concept and I would love to check out its Luxe Sarang which comes with its own private pool.
If you’re the kind who needs activities and amenities to complete your stay , this isn’t the place for you yet (wait till they get their spa and pool running). However, if you want to get away from it all in a place that isn’t Sentosa, the hotel is a great choice. You can even hear the crickets chirping at night, and time slows down in a nostalgic, bygone era kind of way.
If you're looking for the best rates, I recommend booking directly with the hotel here.
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