The one part of my trip that I had booked ahead of time was the end: two nights staying at the Marina Bay Sands Hotel in Singapore, for a luxury end to what turned out to have been quite a luxury trip. Ahem. Built in 2010 and the second most expensive building in the world, this is now the iconic hotel of the city and its three towers have become an integral part of the Singapore skyline.
When I checked out of the AMOY Hotel in the morning and took a taxi over to Marina Bay Sands, my garden view hotel room wasn’t available yet. For a small additional cost, however, I could upgrade to a room with a city view and move indirectly. This I did, and so I soon found myself on the 50th floor, the curtains opening automatically when I entered the room to reveal a view out over the river and the business district beyond.
The hotel, and the whole surrounding area, is like a whole different world…
On my last day, I had to check out of the hotel in the morning but my flight wasn’t until 9pm. What to do? UNIVERSAL STUDIOS! Of course. So I set my alarm for 7am, packed my things, and off I went to Sentosa. (Resorts World, by the way, is the third most expensive building in the world.) I bought the Express Unlimited pass, a magical bracelet that let me skip the queue on every ride. Yeah baby. Unexpectedly, my favourite ride was probably the Transformers: a shaky simulator-type experience where you put on sexy 3D glasses and things come flying out at you, very cool (I haven’t even seen the films. Though I did love the adverts of the 1980s – sing it with me: Transformers! Robots in disguiiiiise!).
By the early afternoon, given that I had zoomed to the front of the line on each and every ride, I had had enough. I’d been on Transformers twice, as well as on the Revenge of the Mummy, the Jurassic Park Rapids Adventure and the Canopy Flyer twice each; and I’d been on Madagascar: A Crate Adventure, Sesame Street (oh yes!), Lights Camera Action, Shrek and Enchanted Airlines. I’d had chicken nuggets, chai tea and churros. And I’d wandered through all the shops and browsed the various toys and souvenirs (I didn’t buy anything, honest!). With the skies having opened, it was time to leave.
Getting to the airport more than four hours before my flight, I cleverly booked a two-hour stint at the pay-per-use lounge at hotel. For $30 I got a shower and a dim sum dinner, and was able to change out of my Universal Studios clothes to start my two-day journey back to the UK completely fresh.
And so ended my Asian adventure! For this time…
The practical bit:
Marina Bay Sands Hotel: The Marina Bay Sands Hotel has rooms from the ‘basic’ deluxe room right up to the presidential suite, with a garden or city view. Breakfast was not included in my room and cost $44++ (which means plus tax and service – pretty outrageous) so I opted to grab a coffee and pastry downstairs in a café on my way out each morning for the princely sum of $10.
Sky Park: If you’re not staying at the hotel, you can still experience the views with a ticket to the Sky Park ($23 for an adult). Or why not eat at one of the restaurants up there and you get the view for free!
Gardens by the Bay: The gardens are also accessible to all, and most of it is free. A combo ticket for the Cloud Forest and Flower Dome was $28. The Sky Walk (a walkway around the giant mushrooms) costs $5 but was closed due to rain when I was there.
Universal Studios: From Marina Bay Sands, I took the Downtown line from Bayfront to Chinatown, changing to the Northeast line to Harbourfront ($3.30 for a return ticket). There you follow the signs to the Vivo shopping centre, where you can already buy your ticket to the park ($74 for a one-day pass plus $4 for the monorail (the return trip is free). You can get the basic Express card ($50) that lets you skip the queue for each ride once, or the Express Unlimited ($70) for… unlimited queue skipping! It wasn’t very busy when I went, compared to the crowds I had expected so close to Christmas, but it was still amazing to get to walk past everyone and get a seat on the front or back of the ride as I so desired (by the afternoon, there was a 30-45-minute wait for the most popular rides). If you’re there on your own like I was, you can often skip the queue anyway, to fill up empty seats – sometimes there was even a separate line for single riders.
Lounge: The pay-per-use lounge is in Terminal 3, which was a bit annoying, as I had to trek all the way across from where my flight was leaving at Terminal 1, with my by-now-very-heavy rucksack. There’s a monorail that takes you between the terminals and I even succumbed to using a trolley to give my back a break. For $30 I got a shower (in a private bathroom with towel, shower products and a hair dryer) and a dim sum dinner. You can also pay $14 just for the shower, or $60 for a three-hour stint in the nap room!