Our home away from home


It is a sunny late afternoon last month when we first arrived at the serviced apartment. At first, we could not locate it since it is nestled behind two main roads. It was indeed a hideaway from the bustling shopping and entertainment belt downtown.

Three imposing towers loomed over us as we walked into the first tower. The main lobby was well-lit and furnished with modern art sculptures and paintings. As we walked across to the second tower to check in, there were three swimming pools surrounded by the towers with pavilions flanking the pathway.

Walking into the cosily-lit lobby, a refreshing scent of osmanthus welcomed us while the staff on duty greeted our arrival with smiles. The lobby was decked out with modern art, luxurious couches, plush rugs and a contemporary ambience. Impressed, we spoke in hushed tones, fearing that we might disturb other occupants who were streaming through the doorway. Most were families, heading out to spend the remains of their Saturday.

Our guest service relation officer then brought us to the two-bedroom apartment that was to be our home for the next three days. It is in TWO WORDS – tastefully furnished.

Our future house

Let’s start with the living room. Clean cool colours outline the dark wood furniture, accessorised with quaint art pieces. You get to put your feet up in comfort in front of the entertainment system, complete with large flat screen TV, over 30 cable TV channels and a DVD player (pity we didn’t bring some movies along).

The kitchen is equipped with a microwave oven, a toaster, an electric kettle, a gas stove, a refrigerator, cooking utensils and eating cutlery. But really, it was the presence of the rice-cooker that impressed us most. Mainly because it took us by surprise as we had assumed most Caucasians expatriates would not have rice (a main staple of Asians) as part of their home dining plans.

There is a washing machine, ironing board and even laundry powder. In short, the apartment has all the things that make our lives a lot easier.

While the welcome gift basket (unheard brands of cup noodles and cakes, Ritz crackers, and Cadbury hot chocolate sachets) was a slight let-down when you have been given a visual feast of delights, knowing the entire place is fitted with free wireless internet more than made up for it. We could also use the cordless phone for free local calls or call the concierge for help.

Every room, bar the kitchen, is equipped with air-conditioning (something she really likes since she thinks she is always hot. Yes, all pun intended). Clean colours once again pervade the stylish master bedroom with dark wood furniture pieces surrounding the white king-sized bed. The second bedroom had two single beds which she immediately attempted to lock me in, taunting, “This room is yours! You belong to the kids’ room. The master bedroom is mine!”

Shower facilities are exactly what you would find in a five-star hotel. But we were asked to not to turn the water heater off because we would have to wait 20 minutes for the water to heat up. Over the next few days, we could also hear plumbing noises in the morning when the tenants above us used the bathroom. Weird.

Yummy meal time

It was 4ish and we haven’t had lunch so we cooked our first meal at the apartment. We had brought some instant noodles and cooking ingredients, fully anticipating our first of the many home-cooked meals together. We changed into more comfy clothes like, oh I don’t know, sexy pyjamas. She cooked spicy noodles, fried Taiwanese sausages while I made Ritz crackers with tuna paste mayonnaise and hot chocolate for her and tea for me. You know what, watching our favourite Discovery channel while eating a meal cooked by her was freaking awesome.

At around 5.30pm, someone slipped an envelope under the door which made us felt like we were in reality show “America’s Next Top Model”. It was a personalised welcome note that really made us think this serviced apartment truly values its guests’ comfort.

At 5.45pm, we headed out to get groceries for dinner. Although the map tells us we were only a stone’s throw away from the train station, we felt more assured when the helpful concierge pointed us to the right direction. We took the bus downtown and ended up in Cotton-On where we purchased some clothes for her. We then went to the supermarket, trying to stick to our mental shopping list without going over-budget.

And it was dinner time. She fried beehoon with “gong wans”, Taiwanese sausages and leafy vegetables. Internet, when we settled back with our gigantic plates of noodles in front of the TV, it was the first time we took more than an hour eating. She even went off halfway to take a poop before returning to eat. Which made me laughed. When she told me her mother would frown on her doing that, I laughed even harder. Yes, I thought that was adorable of her.

Oh, we had home-made mango pudding for dessert too. And it was my first time seeing her eat a mango. Just thinking about it now made me smile. Non-stop.

Sunday fun

The next morning, we were keen to try our hands at cooking breakfast. As it turned out, you can’t really fry hashbrowns, French toasts, baked beans and streaky bacon without incurring the wrath of the smoke detector. That made for an awkward 15 minutes of loud beeping in a very smoky kitchen and frantic calls to the concierge at 10am.

But when all the hoo-ha was over, it was the BEST breakfast WE had ever had. Sometimes I’d fantasise about eating it all over again during the days when I haven’t seen her in a while.

At 1.30pm, we were all set to head to the pool but we were unsure if we should bring towels or water down so we called concierge to check. Turned out we had to bring our own because a serviced apartment’s similarities to hotels can only be stretched this far.

It was a typical Sunday, with many kids splashing in the three pools. One even had a snorkel on even though the pool is 1.2-metre high. If you want to test your potential as an Olympic swimmer, there is a 60-metre lane for you to do just that.

We took 15 minutes to wade into the pool. The water was freeeeeeezing even in the day. When we finally made it into the pool, we swam under the cascading waterfall a couple of times. She thought it was fun. I was too busy keeping my nipples under control.

After a while, we tanned ourselves on outdoor deck chairs. The cheery vibe was infectious. One can really get used to this lifestyle.

An hour later, we went to the gym, which was one of the highlights of our stay. With everyone is out in the pool, it was a great experience having the gym to ourselves for an hour. It was also our first time exercising on the treadmill together. It was, as she said, “fun” even though I felt like I will never ever catch my breath again. It was adorable though to see her trying out all the weight machines one by one and leaving her sweaty thigh stains on the seats. She’d “humph” at me if she reads this.

We carried our aching sweaty bodies up to have a late lunch of pizzas. Ooh there was also some trouble with the washing machine. But it got fixed and she is great at doing laundry, just so you know while I am excellent at cleaning up and washing dishes.

We then baked blueberry muffins together. They turned out almost perfect – nice, soft and fluffy like all good muffins should. Although it was a little salty because we used salted butter to grease the baking tins, they tasted delicious. She did, however, said my body looked like the muffins, at which point, I rolled my eyes at her and pouted.

Dinner was really salty so the less said about it, the better. But I like that she kept praising the vegetables I cooked and how she loved salty dishes. That really made me happy even though I know she was inwardly dying of thirst! What a girl!

Of course, there was wine and ice cubes and more TV and some fun and games. But any more details, you’d have to clean your ears.

Monday morning

We were awake by 8.30am, eager to try out the buffet breakfast. Maybe we should have continued sleeping. When we walked into the dining lounge at 9am, it was already crowded with families and working professionals. The buffet had a limited spread with typical international fare like sausages, hardboiled eggs, salad, stale toasts, cereal and baked beans. Hardly sumptuous. The only saving grace was the coffee.

We found seats next to a friendly middle-aged Indonesian Chinese couple. The frequent travellers were chatty and the wife kept asking us about the various properties in the city. I like how friendly and sociable my girl was even though she was probably not keen on chatting. It made me love her even more.

By 10am, we were back at the apartment, thinking of cooking blueberry pancakes, noodles and kaya toasts for lunch. We spent time playing Words With Friends, watching Discovery Home, chilling out and generally enjoying the comfort of each other’s company until it was check-out time.

If we had to summarise the past few days of the urban weekend getaway, I’d say we complement each other very well in every possible way, from cooking, to cleaning, to shopping, to washing, to showering, to sleeping, to watching TV, to having fun, to exercising, to eating, to sleeping. Seriously, we are just too lovable together.