A Historical Journey With Frozen Lime Asia And Small Luxury Hotels Of The World


Calling out to all History Lovers! This week, we have compiled three very interesting hotels that is not only beautiful inside out, but also has deep history connections dated back many years ago. Read on to find out more!

137 Pillars House, Chiang Mai

Chiang Mai, a green retreat located among the mountains of Northern Thailand is a favourite getaway for both locals and foreign visitors

In the neighbourhood of Wat Gate, stands the beautifully restored 137 Pillars House. The hotel has a history dating back to 1881 when Louis Leonowens, son of Anna Leonwens who was a tutor to King Chulalongkorn left the royal army and joined the East Borneo Company, setting up its headquarters in Baan Borneo, which was the original name of the house. The structure of the house was constructed from teak sourced from the eastern bank of Ping River. It was occupied by the Japanese during World War II and sold to a Scotsman, William Bain after the war; William Bain was also the last managing director of the company. There are exactly 137 pillars in the house which was how it came about with its unique name.

The house was unoccupied for many years and became dilapidated; the teak burnished to a dark hue due to weathering the elements. The locals refer to the house as Baan Dam or the Black House; it was given a new lease of life by Khun Panida Wongphanlert when she acquired the house from the Bain family. A trained architect herself, she enlisted the expertise of Chiang Mai University architect and lecturer Julaporn Nathapanich to restore the teakhouse. Working with Habita Architects, the house was transformed into a 30-suite luxury hotel. Much of the hold house’s stately structures are preserved, even the century-old trees on its grounds. The new buildings are distinctive with white-painted timber and cement tile roofs which provides sturdiness as compared to the old timber shingle roof. To prevent floodwaters from damaging the house, the entire house was moved using a hydraulic lift to the elevated middle ground which was raised by 1.5 metres.

Staying in any of the suites is like taking a step back in time; think vintage tiled floors, hand-crafted wood and rattan furniture, canopy beds, luxurious free-standing tubs in spacious bathrooms, filigree screens, and even a private pool in the Louis Leonowens Pool Suites. The terraces of the suites overlook the lush grounds of the property, with views of the infinity pool and cabanas scattered across the lawn. Swim in the infinity pool which is fronted by an astonishing 45-metre green wall of plants. Have a pre-dinner cocktail at the Jack Bain Bar, where a collection of past memorabilia and artwork are on display. For formal dining options, the Palette Restaurant seats 20 guests and serves the freshest farm to table ingredients paired with fine wines. Bask in the old-world ambience of the gorgeous Dining Room where traditional Lanna and Thai cuisine are served. Relax with a massage in the Spa which also serves health spa cuisine.  

When dusk falls, take a 10-minute walk to the Chiang Mai Night Market and mingle with the locals while shopping for charming knick-knacks, handicrafts or even to have your portrait drawn. Retire to your sumptuous suite with your bed turn-downed and chocolates on your pillow, a sweet end to the day.

The Tokyo Station Hotel, Japan

Tokyo needs no introduction - the bustling capital of Japan is the most populous metropolis. Amidst soaring skyscrapers, glittering malls and Michelin-star restaurants, the Tokyo Station Hotel and Tokyo Station in the Marunouchi building stands like a grand dame holding court. The history of the station goes back to 1908; designed by Japanese architect Kingo Tatsuno, a pioneer of Japanese modern architecture, he was commissioned to design the Central Station in the middle of Tokyo. Construction began in 1908 and opened in 1916 with the formal name of Tokyo Station. The red-brick building has miraculously survived the Great Kanto Earthquake in 1923 but was severely damaged in air raids during World War II in 1945.

Looking at the magnificent building today, it would be hard to envision that it was once a shelter to the homeless after the earthquake then a coffee bar after the war. In 2003, the Tokyo Station Marunouchi Building was designated as an Important Cultural Property of Japan and further restoration and renovation works led to the hotel being reopened on October 3, 2012. The hotel overlooks the Imperial Palace and is directly linked to the Tokyo Station. Stay in the hotel’s Dome Side Rooms where the windows overlook the station’s interior. Marvel at the European Renaissance architecture with oriental reliefs of Zodiac animal symbols. The highlight of the building are the two magnificent North and South Dome wings, with soaring ceilings and features the original reliefs of eight eagles positioned facing left in the octagonal corners under the dome. The most magical part of it? The room is surprisingly quiet from the busy hum of the station.

Spread over 4 floors, the hotel houses 150 rooms with varied views of the Tokyo Financial District, the Imperial Palace and the surrounding Marunouchi area. Choose from 10 restaurants offering French, International, Japanese, Italian and Chinese cuisine. On the second level of the hotel which overlooks the station, enjoy a hot cup of coffee and light meals or go up to The Atrium on level four under the roof of the Tokyo Station for a sumptuous buffet meal.

The hotel has play host to many luminaries and acclaimed writers, like the late Seicho Matsumoto (1909-1992) and Nobel laureate in literature, Yasunari Kawabata (1899-1972). They were known to have written some of their works while staying at the hotel.

Explore the Marunouchi district, which in the past, was located just outside the moats of Edo Castle and home to the many feudal lords during the Edo Period. Today, it houses some of Japan’s biggest companies particularly from the finance industry. If you want to explore Japan, the hotel’s location is optimum as the Tokyo Station has 6 shinkansen (bullet-train) lines, railway lines and subway lines.

The Scarlet Singapore

Young Singaporeans know Ann Siang Hill, Erskine Road and Maxwell Road as a trendy and hip enclave of bars, cafes and restaurants. We go back in time to the 1800 where the area was once a hill called Mount Erskine, the name of the hill being ascribed to the Honourable J.J.Erskine, a member of the Penang government council. Later, Chia Ann Siang, a Chinese merchant from Malacca bought over Gemmill’s Hill in the same vicinity (later renamed Ann Siang Hill) as well as Mount Erskine. The area housed many social welfare and health services in the past; malnutrition and tuberculosis were rampant especially in children after the Japanese Occupation ended in 1945. St Andrew’s Mission Hospital was set up at Erskine Road from 1923 to 1948 and provided much needed medical services to the people.

The shophouses on Erksine Road used to be the living quarters of immigrant Chinese women who came to Singapore to work. Garbed in black and white ‘samfu’, the women were known as ‘amah’, Chinese domestic servants and were prized by families for their loyalty and dedication. The two-storey shophouses were basic in their façade and the upper storey had full-height timber louvered windows with timber balustrades. The 1st storey were typically used as shops and living quarters were on level 2; the last of the ‘amahs’ actually lived there up to the 1980s. Grace International bought over the 13 shophouses and did a complete redesign and redevelopment to transform the shophouses into Singapore’s first luxury boutique hotel -The Scarlet. A four-storey shophouse at No. 37 which was built in 1924 was added to the hotel.

The Scarlet Singapore was opened in 2004 and offers 80 rooms across 3 floors. The hotel’s décor is anything but vanilla; bold hues of velvet red, deep purple, turquoise, amber, black are prevalent in its rooms and common areas. The textured materials of its furnishings and mood lighting add on the dramatic vibe of the hotel. Stay in any of the five individually themed suites with the flamboyant names of Swank, Opulent, Lavish, Splendour and Passion. Head to Casa Tartufo on the first floor for delectable Northern Italian cuisine or head up to the Aria for sunset drinks and Sicilian bites. The rooftop al fresco bar is a wonderful spot to relax with a drink and soak in the heritage vibes of the area while looking over the sloping roofs of the shophouses and Chinatown. The bubbling outdoor jacuzzi is aptly named Soda or sweat it out at Flaunt, the in-house gym. Need to find spot for your meeting? Book Bold, the meeting room on level one which comfortably seats 8.

Step out of the hotel and you’ll be spoilt for choice with a dizzying array of shops for retail therapy, beauty and hair treatments, hip cafes and more. The hotel is also walking distance to Chinatown and the closest train station at Tanjung Pagar.

For the stunning restoration and renovation works, the building was awarded the 2005 Architectural Heritage Award. Come stay and relive a piece of Singapore’s history.