What can I say? Words almost fail me in trying to describe Marina Bay Sands.
Let’s start with the building itself. It’s huge, dominating the Marina Bay skyline. Looking like an ocean liner resting atop three columns, it looks like something out of a science fiction movie. (Fans of the BBC television series “Dr. Who” will be reminded of the episode “Voyage of the Damned.” Sorry, I digress.)
The hotel, whose 2,561 rooms are located in the three towers, is the biggest hotel in Singapore. The top deck can hold 3,900 people, and boasts an infinity pool that is almost 500 feet long.
And then there is the shopping. There is over 800,000 square feet of retail exuberance here. And this is no ordinary mall experience; this is Prada and Gucci and Versace. This is 35 jewelry stores, including names like DeBeers and Chow Tai Fook, the top name in high end jewelry in China. Trust me, this is not a place where you will find a clearance rack.
And did I mention there was a canal with gondolas on the bottom floor? Just in case you get too tired walking past all that high end merchandise.
Marina Bay Sands was the first casino to be built in Singapore, and as of 2011 is the most profitable casino in the world. That doesn’t mean that the government approves of gambling. In fact, Singaporeans and permanent residents must pay a levy of S$100 a day (or S$2,000 a year) just to enter the casino. Foreigners are exempt from the levy, and the message is clear: if you are a foreigner, come on in and lose your money in this luxurious place. If you are a citizen, go do something productive with your time; this is no place for you.
I don’t gamble, except occasionally at the horse track, but I wanted to see what all the hoopla was about, and I wanted to see the infinity pool on the top deck. Getting into the Marina Bay Sands complex is easy; finding your way around is not.
After a number of wrong turns and long walks past high-end shops, I finally find the ticket counter. It costs S$20 to go up to the SkyPark, roughly comparable to the cost of going to the Observation Deck at the John Hancock Building in Chicago. However that S$20 ticket
People taking pictures of other people taking pictures. A popular pastime among Japanese visitors.
doesn’t get you into the pool and garden area unless you sign up for one of the three guided tours given each day, each tour restricted to 50 people.
From the SkyPark you certainly get a magnificent view of the city. From just about anywhere along the river and bay front you get a magnificent view of this iconic building. But all in all, it’s a whole lot of glitter sprinkled on top of a whole lot of things you really don’t need. It’s fun to look at though, and I’m looking forward to seeing a “Dr. Who” episode filmed here sometime.
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