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Michael Aquino

Marina Bay Sands – Up and Down, Way Way Down.

By February 24, 2012

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I don't sleep very well in hotel rooms. This is no strike against the Marina Bay Sands (compare rates|buy direct), where I spent my first night in Singapore; no matter how comfy they make their beds (and I might just add here, the bed in the Deluxe Room of the Sands has a really comfy mattress and crisp clean bright white sheets), I simply don't get that good a snooze so far away from home.

I wish I did, though - even if it's the most basic room in the Marina Bay Sands repertoire, the Deluxe Room is great value. The big floor-to-ceiling glass window leads into a very small balcony, but lets in enough light to create the impression of larger size in the room.

Guests who book a Deluxe Room have a choice of two double beds or one King-size bed. WiFi comes with the package; I'm pleased to say the in-room Internet was quite fast; made up for the size of the bathroom (compact) and the view (nonexistent; palm trees blocked my view of the street). Since the room is located on the second floor, traffic noises are quite audible even with windows closed. If I had had a choice, I might have selected a Deluxe Room with a city view on the 19th floor - better view, no traffic noise.

With only four hours of sleep, I got ready to take the grand tour of the Sands. Despite my slight drowsiness, I was excited at the prospect: I wanted to see more of what the Sands had, more than an ordinary paying guest would be able to see, at any rate.

The tour did not disappoint. It was a thrill to see what you could get at the Marina Bay Sands if, say, your take-home pay were the equivalent of a small country's GDP: The 2,300-square-foot Istana Suite at the 57th floor, with its two bedrooms, a gigantic bathroom with a Jacuzzi and rainshowers, walk-in wardrobe, a furnished balcony overlooking the sea, with the Gardens by the Bay below you and the sea beyond.

Even the Istana Suite's bathroom (above) has a view of the bay. The height means that, despite the floor-to-ceiling windows, only the guest inside the suite gets to see the outside, not the other way around.

The Istana Suite even has its own gym and massage room, enabling well-heeled guests to get their pampering without mixing in with the hoi polloi. (You can request a massage therapist from the Banyan Tree Spa.)

The second leg of the tour took us back to the top - the SkyPark, which looks very different in the daytime. The SkyPark view of Singapore's Marina Bay has a more robust feel when the sun is shining: Singapore is very much an optimistic, forward-looking country, and the building projects can be seen everywhere to support this: the Gardens by the Bay (www.gardensbythebay.org.sg) being built up by the sea; the Singapore Flyer (very much a pipsqueak next to the Sands) the Esplanade (two big durians that serve up showstopping entertainments) and the Merlion, er, merlioning.

Shiying led the way to the Sky on 57 Restaurant, on the Tower 1 side of the SkyPark; the establishment is run by Singaporean celebrity chef Justin Quek, and serves up Asian cuisine with a French twist. Upon exiting the restaurant, we passed by the Sands' swimming pool. It looked very different from when I was trembling in its frigid waters the night before; with the sun shining down on the families and tourists gamboling in the water, it looked like a lot of awesome fun.

Down again we went, this time to make the rounds of the Shoppes at Marina Bay and the other celebrity chef restaurants that sit like a halo around the Marina Bay Sands casino. TV chef Mario Batali, for one, opened a branch of his celebrated Osteria Mozza restaurant in the Shoppes; gamblers or theater patrons itching for some Italian cuisine can just drop in and sample Batali's menu and extensive wine list.

The circular walkway leading to the celebrity chef restaurants sits several stories atop the casino, ringing a birds'-eye view of the slot machines, card tables, and roulette wheels on the ground floor. Marina Bay Sands has a very strict no-photography rule with regard to the casino below; there was no way I could sneak a shot with my camera, and I hated the idea of getting Shiying in trouble, so I stayed my hand.

Back to the ground floor, past Ned Kahn's Rain Oculus (a rainwater collector that funnels water down to an interior canal where guests can rent gondola rides - see it in action here), and out to the pavement separating the Marina Bay Sands from the river. Stand here - on the walkway between the Shoppes on one side, the flagship Louis Vuitton store and the ArtScience Museum on the other - and you'll be part of the Marina Bay view seen by the tourists up on the SkyPark. Not that you'll be easily seen, because anybody on the sidewalk is a tiny speck to viewers 57 stories up.

Shiying really came through on the last leg of the tour: she got me a complimentary pass to see the Titanic Artifact Exhibition (titanic.sg), which deserves its own blog post. More on that later; suffice it to say that by the end of the tour, I'd gone from 57 stories up in the air to 12,460 feet under the ocean, with no small thanks to Marina Bay Sands.

February 25, 2012 at 12:40 pm
(1) jon says:

Hi…how did u get to tour the istana suite? Free?

February 25, 2012 at 9:49 pm
(2) Mike Aquino says:

Got the tour courtesy of MBS’ marketing department. :)

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