Bed and Dreams Inn @ Clarke Quay 15/12/16 – 22/12/16

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Having checked out of Rucksack Inn @ Lavender Road just hours prior to my arrival here, it was pleasing to see doodles scribbled across the (rather difficult to find) entrance of Bed and Dreams Inn @ Clarke Quay. Indeed, this hostel was once titled Rucksack itself, according to the manager of the former whom I had mingled a little with. Both the former and current Rucksack Inns share many of its aesthetics, from said wall doodles and dark wood floor textiles to its embrace of the color red.

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This is not a wheelchair friendly hostel. I had only counted the steps from the ground up to the lobby floor, located on the second. Peaking at a consecutive 21, which excludes the other 20 steps to the third storey where my room resided, it served as a minor hindrance to the little time I had to prepare for my poor man’s night job. It was around 5pm, within a mere half an hour I was checked in, bathed and packed out the door.

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Despite some of the annoyances I had with the hostel’s poor vertical connections of its spaces, on the large scale they were of minimal concern. Bed and Dreams had contented me with its dedication to making myself comfortable… maybe a little too much. The above picture is of a setting I had met upon my 2am arrival back from work, which would be what I’d expect if I was home alone or if my hypothetical family was asleep. Certainly not a party animal’s dream, but one such as myself could appreciate the quiet and serenity of such moments.

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Like any decent house, one is expected to take off their shoes before entering. In this case, shoes were forbidden from the lobby and the upper floors, and shoes racks hugged on one side of the wall while trailing the steps to the third level. I’m probably being nitpicking here (when am I not?) but this screams style over substance, as the many footwear left along the lobby entrance testifies to the lack of ergonomic considerations; it was quite distasteful to search for an empty shoe rack/your shoes while standing in the middle of a long flight of stairs. At least there were labels to distinguish the different racks, although that left me with one more thing to drill into memory throughout my stay.

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Simplicity is the theme of the dormitory levels. Indeed, the establishment left much of its little tricks up its sleeves in the lobby, so much so I felt certain aspects of the upper storeys to be lacking in comparison to the lobby. This is less of a negative criticism as much as it is an acknowledgement of how well the lobby and its common spaces had been catered to making its guests right at home. There were no plug sockets in the space above, leaving even less incentives to crowd these clean narrow walkways as if it were intended.

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It was the early morning and I made my way to my allocated bed in the 10 bedded mixed dormitory room ($15.40 per night, including GST and taxes, booked through hotels.com), where only an empty bed light provided a shine to this dark interior. In case you were wondering, yes I had actually fell asleep like a penniless hobo in the lobby sofa up till this point. To give credit, the elongated dormitory room could be lit in individual segments, as there were three separate switches to activate lights across parts of the room. I was less hesitant than otherwise to light up the relevant space, lest I posed a nuisance to other sleeping guests, for my own use.

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Now I’m sure the lack of sockets in the upper storeys was not of a design choice, as surely in the rooms it was a clear misstep. More accurately, there were sufficient sockets, only that they were installed away from where would be most efficient. The picture above seemingly shows a pair of reasonably positioned plug sockets beside the lower side of a bunk bed, only that my bed was of the above with no access to such. Unsurprisingly, I would spend all my waking hours away from the dormitory space, in favor of Bed and Dream’s impressive lobby.

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In my waking hours, I found myself very attached to this alluring kitchen table in the common area, which was to be of profound utility in my week’s stay. For this late morning, I prepared myself a foursome of toasted white bread smothered with generous servings of peanut butter. In all respects, there were a relatively small variety of choices amongst the free breakfast items; wholemeal bread was nary to be found, and only at best were there three different bread spreads (of which for this morning there were only two) on the counter at any point.

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No complementary milk was also served as well, so why was I so illogically appreciative of this apparently subpar kitchen assemble? Much of it could be directly attributed to the aesthetics of the space; didn’t you already grasp the alikeness of the kitchen windows to that of regular HDB units? Having called home behind such grills for a majority of my life past, I couldn’t help but allow nostalgia to dismiss most notions of faults. In the picture below, the strategically positioned bright wooden table and padded on chairs (and that sneaky little tissue box) would almost convince me that this was genuinely a home turned into a hostel rather than the other way round.

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I would not point to coincidence as a major factor in my positive experience on this note, as I had consistent encounters with mornings, or afternoons, uncrowded yet rich in activities like that of a stay-at-home Sunday morning scene. Just seconds prior to the above shot, the standing man in the middle was seated on the right sofa, engrossed in a tourist pamphlet, yet that alone felt uncannily akin to a typical Dad on the newspaper. The behaviour of the staff further immersed me in this idea, frequently relaxing around the dining table to converse among themselves while unoccupied, and one distinct Malay receptionist would unabashedly sing along to her choice of music on the stereo while seated on the front desk. Should you ever visit, I’ll let you figure out who I’m referring to for yourself!

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Just as the hostel retains its low key charm throughout all its hours, so does its locality: Hongkong Street. A comparatively few vehicles drive through this spacious road at any given time, adding a peaceful touch upon entry or exit of Bed and Dreams. Multitudes of 7 Eleven convenience stores also root themselves tightly along the surrounding streets, to which one is located just along the opposite row of shophouses from the hostel at my convenience. There also lies an intriguing cafe whose entrance is so inconspicuous, none would ever come to realize its existence lest one has done his or her research and it was actively hunted down. Alas, I was (still am) dirt broke, so the Ronin Cafe story shall be a writeup for an entry of another day.

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It’s quite a bummer that a supermarket would be absent at the nearby Clarke Quay Central shopping mall, a bare 200m walk away. One would then have to trot three streets down to the sprawling Chinatown Point, where in its vicinity lies no shortage of mouth watering delicacies. Fortunately, a hot/cold water dispenser hosted just left of the kitchen counter saved me the potentially back and forth grocery trips for bottled water. It’s also no surprise that many would then gather around the dining table to boil and feast on their cancerous “spicy cup noodles”, which were simultaneously sold from the counter at a pricey $2.50.

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A pair of younger staff had better ideas for themselves. Over the course of two nights, I spectated their evening gobblings of what seemed to be some form of Taiwanese noodles encapsulated in a striking orange cylindrical box. While lack any photo documentation to back this up, I have had pleasant prior experiences with Taiwanese noodles at eateries such as Liu San at Bukit Timah Plaza. As the enthusiastic food hunter wannabe, I obtained directions toward the aforementioned Clarke Quay Central to satiate my curious appetite.

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I suppose I’ve been relatively evasive of dining in the context of shopping malls. Chain restaurant outlets populate these typically sterile and impersonal environments; I very much relish in the success of any F&B businesses, but such a fashion of expansion sadly but surely rips a unique charm away from being in that “one and only place”. Expectedly, I have little to say regarding Tea Valley’s artistic vision for its interior decor, but really, I was here for some noodles.

The menu, however, boasted more than just that; a total of 16 main course items were priced at the $6-$6.80 range, so it was a matter entirely of taste than price for which I would pick my fancy. Still, I would set my eyes upon some Minced Pork noodles, perfect for a satisfying dinner!

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Or so I assumed. Immediately apparent at first glance, the general composition leaned towards the simple side, and perhaps a little too much. I was unimpressed with how dry to taste the noodles were, even after having given the bowl a good stir with the meat paste. Having only an average to below average serving size and no variety in ingredients, the only saving grace to this dinner was the not too shabby quality of the minced pork itself, which regrettably does little to make up for an otherwise lackluster meal, especially when compared to competition at nearby streets such as the cheaper and tastier Specialty Dry Mee Sua of BK Eating House at South Bridge Road.

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I thought it would be worth mentioning the general lack of a crowd in the basement level of Central even at the appropriate peak hours, which is a plus in my books. It’s foreseeable that one with a wider budget seeking not to blow up a bank account could opt to dine here in comfort. Anyways, this was about as miniscule of a hole as I could afford to burn in my literally torned up wallet for this entry.

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Despite having the net worth of a dirty beggar, I do still have to upkeep an acceptable standard of hygiene. Afterall, it is practically illegal to be homeless in Singapore. Bed and Dreams’ cozy shower rooms offers an excellent remedy to poverty (oh how I wish)! I had mostly good vibes with the facilities, in spite of the mysteriously missing overhead showerhead in one of the two dedicated rooms (on the third floor), the fluctuating temperatures of the water heater, the occasional weird odor stemming from an unknown source and some slightly wonky folding doors. Many a times, I would settle in and find myself deeply submerged in a condition analogous to that of meditation. Pale walls fully enclosing the space within most likely offered an optimal sanctuary for tranquility.

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All of the five available rooms, of which three resided our friendly toilet bowls, receives their well deserved treatment with ventilation fans installed in each of them. I never felt like I was locked into an airtight container, left to perspire in the aroma of my own fecal waste. Lest I only sing praises, I did note a similar underlying theme of under-maintenance, where there was puddle of water on the floor in the middle toilet that never seemed to evaporate, implying a leakage in the pipes.

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In case I paint a dishonest image, the hostel does indeed regulate its spaces to be clean and vibrant. For instance, I was never once compelled to sweep a heap of dust off my feet, for there would be none. Strangely, the staff would choose to ignore the piling of tabletop objects; if my memory serves me right, the above crumpled tissue was allowed to rest on this spot for several days past. It’s as if the staff were all, in some genuine sense, blind to half of a potential housekeeping list, for in all other respects it seems they perform their duties rigorously.

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It most irked me when I had myself an overnight laptop session and hunger ultimately got the best of me. Officially, breakfast begins at 7:30am and ends at 10:30am. In reality, the rule is never enforced. The breakfast items would be laid out on our handy kitchen counter, ready for my or anyone’s consumption throughout the day. Some of next morning’s offerings would be chilled in the fridge. Anyways, I was in the process of toasting some white bread for supper when I realized ants had made their home around the peanut butter container on the counter. It was improbable that any guest had helped themselves to the items after the staff’s departure, and having stationed myself in line of sight, I did not recall to have observed as such. Surely the tiny spillover along the peanut butter container would attract the little pests if only the staff had neglected on such details?

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Nevertheless such annoyances did little to ruin the mood for nights like these; I had on two occasions established sole proprietary of the television and couch quarters in the second floor after midnight. Most definitely a guests’ hotspot, it was scarce to witness the sofa seats laid bare in the day. Frankly, my photos fail to capture the essence of this extraordinarily snuggly corner. Two pillows were laid out on each of the three sofas, totalling to six fluffies at my disposal. In one of the two occasions, instead of pulling the coffee table closer to my seat, I obnoxiously laid two pillows on the ground while leaning on another behind me so as to engage myself in the setup below. It’s what I do when I get too comfortable.

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And for two other nights, the irresistible stuffed cotton would lull me into deep slumber till morning came along, when I would awaken to the above scenario and a slowly crowding lobby. I must admit it gets a little embarrassing to repeatedly engage in socially awkward behaviour such as this, although at the same time it provides a delicious sense of instant gratification.

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Speaking of delicious, wonder how to quell a growling stomach on the cheap in a quick, easy and healthy(er) fashion? I was, and it was a question that lingered in my head in the recent weeks due to my personal financial crisis. Of unique consideration, I had to ensure that my means would account for a factor of backpacking portability, in which a prior selection of my ingredients failed to meet in criteria. Also, “no egg and plain water heat up at micro”, as the label on the machine said. Stepping into the arena: potatoes, onions and bell peppers!

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Really, it’s a matter of choosing a flexible stock of ingredients to manage based upon consumption before the day of checkout. While I regret the absence of garlic in the recipe, onions alone work wonders in adding flavor. A pack of six russet potatoes, onions and three bell peppers sustains me up to six meals before necessitating a second trip to the grocery store. Here, all I have to do is to poke some holes around the potatoes, chop up the onions and bell peppers, of which only half is required per meal, sprinkle some extra virgin olive oil on the vegetables and leave the rest to the microwave.

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The process is stress-free, safe and no sweating required!  Both potatoes can be microwaved at a go for 5 minutes before flipping the underside up, repeating the baking process for 3 minutes. I initially microwaved my onions and vegetables, which can be paired in one plate for the cooking, for 3 minutes; the result is what you see below: overly dehydrated and soggy bell peppers.

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Here’s a better example of a 1:30 minute cooked onions and juicy bell peppers in my second attempt. As on display below, the inner contents of the potatoes achieve a desired mushy texture, although admittedly the skin never attains an authentic crisp. Meanwhile, the retention of form and moisture in the vegetables render each bite in this bare bones course a lifehacking bliss! To supplement protein, I accompanied all my meals with a cup of whole milk.

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But where would I store all my ingredients in a place like this? The lockers of Bed and Dreams, located in the dormitory levels just outside the bedded rooms, could honestly use some additional space. For a $10 key deposit, I saw it only fit for the little things such as my cooking oil bottle, or other miscellaneous objects such as a detergent pack, but left out of security were some of my precious valuables, such as my laptop. My next best alternative was to conceal said valuable in certainly the most creative and hidden-from-view bed spot.

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The day of checkout was gradually but surely creeping in closer, and under my bed frame laid a heap of dirty clothes begging for a round of cleansing. The washer behind the kitchen counter on its left was not the solution to my woes. For an exorbitant $10, one could entrust the establishment to monitor entire laundry cycles, and expect to have their clothes returned in clean slate upon request. Still, $10 is almost two thirds the asking price of a night’s stay, an astounding strategy to fully flush the remaining speckles in my wallet.

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Even as I submitted myself to the old fashioned ways, hand washing would only direct me towards the inconvenience of drying my clothes; there were no empty or dedicated wall hooks all throughout the lobby and living zones. Large bundles of wet and dripping clothes simply could not be dealt with over one night, hence I would segregate my workload into nightly bundles of five, laying them across inner toilet hooks after a good soak and scrub. Yet even so stuck a suboptimal drying process that would weigh heavily on my time and easeful mind.

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And it’s that time of the entry again: I was set to say goodbye to a wonderful week at Bed and Dreams. It occurred to me momentarily that I had yet to fully explore beyond the third storey of the five levelled hostel. Much like the third, the four floor exhibits identical characteristics, albeit a tad bit narrower. One would never face a queue to the bathroom through this revelation; in just the dormitory levels, a total of four shower and six flush toilet rooms stand ready at service.

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Thematically, the highest floor interior shifts away from simplicity back into a familiar red. My first step was greeted by an out of bounds door leading into a mini staff kitchen, although further in a potential gem would catch my fickle attention. Towards the end of the walkway possessing only two guest rooms, for which I assume to be private rooms, lies a unexpected contrasting space: a bright outdoor rooftop quarter. Rain poured meticulously to my visual obstruction, but based upon several glances it seems a lack of plug sockets squanders whatever possibility of functional dwelling within the open area. There’s not much of a view here either (the patterned walls below vertically enclose half of four sides) so I suppose I didn’t miss much afterall.

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At of writing at this point, I realise I might’ve painted a rather mixed impression of one of my ultimately beloved hostels of choice. Not unlike my stay at the Quarters Hostel, I dreaded the final moments as I approached my luggage bag to exit the premise. Heck, it was difficult to lift myself off those living room couches! Therefore, I see it necessary to summarize a list of outstanding pros and cons to demonstrate and conclude this entry on a hopeful note. The check in timing is from 2pm-11pm.

Pros:
– Quick check in/check out
– Friendly staff (English literate)
– Clean beds
– Clean floors
– Clean and numerous toilets
– No foul smells (only occasionally in toilets)
– Cozy, homely and spacious lobby
– Many sockets in lobby
– Effectively 24 hours free breakfast (with oranges! Almost missed that)
– Large refrigerator for use
– Water dispenser
– Quiet environment
– Great food in vicinity
– All day air conditioning/ventilation throughout all spaces
– Great Wi-Fi
– Aesthetically pleasing
– 2-3 minutes walk from Clarke Quay MRT (Take exit A)

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Cons:
– Poor vertical connection of spaces
– Naturally dark interiors
– Limited breakfast selection
– Nightly insect infestation of kitchen counter/rubbish on coffee table
– Regulated microwave usage
– Weird socket locations in dormitory rooms
– Small lockers
– Expensive laundry service

Bed and Dreams Inn @ Clarke Quay
38 Hongkong Street
Singapore 059677

Tea Valley @ The Central

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