In a city full of fine dining, shopping and hotels, the new Marina Bay Sands complex may just be Singapore/Asia/the world’s best. That’s certainly their aim.
I ought to hate this place. I’m not a great swimmer and I’m afraid of heights. Why would I be impressed by an infinity pool 200 metres above a very hard road? Five star hotels generally remind me of my status as a 2-3 star person. Shopping and gambling are among my least favourite activities because I’ve already got everything (ask anyone who tries to buy me a birthday present) and, as I understand it, punters in casinos are meant to lose.
Yet in spite of myself, I have to admire Marina Bay Sands (‘MBS’ to its friends). Singapore’s newest hotel/casino/shopping mall/science museum/convention centre/gallery/eat street/skating rink/theatre complex and practically everything else is just so much of so much. Here more is more and OTT is never OTT enough.
Love it or loathe it, Singaporeans can’t ignore MBS. It dominates the city skyline between the CBD and the harbour. The SkyPark is a mighty cigar-shaped rocket, perched on a three-towered launchpad which houses the hotel suites.
Thanks to my travel-blogging status, I was allowed to check out the Chairman’s Suite, with private gym, spa and home theatre. I’d rattle around a bit here, I thought. It’s not exactly cosy, but it would be perfect for entertaining a few of my friends after the performance of The Lion King downstairs. They could escape into the office or kitchen while I tinkled away on the baby grand piano.
If I got peckish, I could slip down to the mezzanine level above the casino, to eat at any of fifty restaurants, including a number headed by Michelin-hatted chefs. Santi Santamaria from Barcelona, Guy Savoy from Paris and Aussie pin-up boy Tetsuya Wakuda are ‘helming’ branches here.
From the mezzanine I could look up to the massive Swarovski crystal chandelier, or down on the poor wretches on the casino floor. The Singaporean government has an idea to deter problem gamblers. Locals pay a levy of $100 a day to enter the casino. We foreigners just have to flash a passport. It’s someone else’s problem if we develop a gambling habit, but I don’t think I will. The voices of my Scottish Presbyterian ancestors are perpetually raised in disapproving chorus in my head, reminding me that only wealth accumulated by combining thrift with hard work can ever bring satisfaction.
The statistics on this development are:
* 10 years to plan and build, at a cost of over US$5 billion.
* Three 55-storey hotel towers
* 2,560 rooms
* A front-desk concierge who remembers every guest by name (no, probably not. I just made that up.)
* A one hectare roof garden with 360 degree views of Singapore.
* A 150 metre infinity pool.
* The world’s second most expensive casino (Number One is MGM Mirage in Las Vegas. Hey, Singapore – why not just spend a bit extra and get the record? Go on, you know you want to! Take a punt like the rest of us are doing.)
* Singapore biggest ice-skating rink.
* Two state-of-the-art theatres, seating a total of 4000. The Lion King is expected to run for a year in the Sands Theatre.
In January 2011 MBS won the award as Asia’s Best MICE Hotel. I bet any rodent would love it here, but MICE stands for ‘meetings, incentives, conventions and exhibitions’.
The shopping centre has all the big names; Tiffany, Prada, Hermés, Cartier…and just to be different, Louis Vuitton has his own little island off the main complex.
For those of us looking for cheaper entertainment, the Lotus Shell will house 21 gallery and museum spaces and the new Botanic Gardens between MBS and the sea will open during 2011.
Modest Atrium rooms begin at SGD369 a night, while the Orchid Suite will set you back SGD798. USD1 equals SGD1.27 at the time of writing.
The SkyPark is open to non-guests. Entry costs SGD20.
STOP PRESS: Like many others, I was saddened to hear of the sudden death of the brilliant Barcelona chef Santi Santamaria, who collapsed while showing people around his new restaurant in Marina Bay Sands.