Singapore can be a frazzling place. There are only two seasons here, they say: hot and humid or hot and wet. Morning humidity averages 90 per cent, and within moments of leaving Changi airport, my straight hair had puffed into a cloud and a just-laminated sheen glossed my skin.
None of this is conducive to a glamorous arrival at the city-state's most glamorous new hotel. Thankfully, the Capella is just outside the city centre on the island of Sentosa, a self-styled retreat of tropical forest, man-made beaches, family-friendly attractions and gentle sea breezes.
As my taxi meandered up the driveway around a small green hill and past a pair of strutting peacocks, the main building gradually came into view. First a red-tiled roof, then a two-storey colonnaded colonial building so white that I practically had to put on sunglasses in order to look at it. Things were certainly starting to look cooler, even if I wasn't.
Built in the late 19th century for use as a British military club, the Capella has been architecturally re-programmed by Foster + Partners and opened as a hotel in March. Gracious staff greet you like ethereal clouds along the portico, wafting you inside. The reception is a vision of cool and calm, too: stone-hued walls, shiny white marble floors, plump sofas and rattan chairs. Upstairs is the library, where you can sit and drink tea, read a newspaper, or simply simmer down. Next door is the Cantonese restaurant Cassia, where a theatrical design of sultry tones and black lacquer spills on to a veranda. The colonial chic aesthetic is broken only by vivid modern art on the walls, a hint of what lies beyond.
This being a Foster + Partners project, you don't just get a historic renovation. Beyond the colonial structure, a contemporary curvilinear building wraps itself in a figure-of-eight shape around a tropical garden. This addition houses most of the guest rooms.
The Capella dwells in just over a third of its 30-acre boundaries – a luxury not afforded to hotels in the city centre, where skywards is the only direction developers can look. Beyond the modern building are a swanky bar, restaurant and three-tiered terraces of infinity pools, sleekly surrounded by black slate. All very sexy until it absorbs the midday sun and scorches the soles of your feet, causing you to scuttle around like a crab. Still, with shady views through the trees of the South China Sea, it's a lovely spot for relaxing.
Capella, 1 The Knolls, Sentosa Island, Singapore (00 65 6377 8888; capellasingapore.com ) is in the centre of Sentosa island, away from the concrete-and-steel tangle of the Resorts World construction site (due for completion next year with hotels, shops and a Universal Studios). Touristy rides and attractions are to the west, beach coves to the south and golf courses seep eastwards. The city centre is a 10-minute drive away, so you're never too far to pick up the pace again. However you come here for an escape – don't expect shops or restaurants beyond the hotels.
Time from international airport: Singapore Changi is a 30-minute drive. Limousine transfers cost S$45 (£18.80) one way, otherwise a metered taxi will cost around S$25 (£10.40). Alternatively, take the MRT (underground) from Changi to Harbourfront then hop on the free Sentosa Express monorail to Imbiah monorail station.
The 111 rooms are split between the modern wing and a collection of long-stay villas scattered around the gardens. Disappointingly, there are no rooms in the original colonial building, but their gracious interiors more than compensate. I arrived at my room at night, the blinds down and the lighting atmospherically low, moodily accentuating the muted colour scheme. The following morning, at the touch of a button, 20 metres of blackout blinds lifted like a cinema screen on a view first of the tree canopy, then the glistening sea. The "contemporary Asian" style feels a little familiar but is nonetheless supremely comfortable. Rooms are either big or bigger, with the furnishings suitably proportioned.
Constellation rooms come with outdoor Jacuzzis, while villas are just that, with plunge pools and landscaped gardens. Guests lacking their own pool to wallow in can make for the Auriga spa, where treatments are based on the phases of the moon.
Freebies: Natural Abahna toiletries, mineral water, soft drinks and turn-down treats.
Keeping in touch: Whopping 46-inch LCD TVs, DVD players, direct-dial phones, Wi-Fi, Bose iPod docking station, daily newspaper.
THE BOTTOM LINE
Doubles start at S$765 (£319), room only.
I'm not paying that: The Rasa Sentosa Resort (00 65 6275 0100; shangri-la.com ) on Siloso Beach has doubles from S$282 (£117), room only.