Have you ever had one of those things happen to you that was so un-freaking-believable that it almost seemed stupid that this “thing” was actually happening to you? Something where you could only stand there and laugh a ridiculously dumb laugh because you can’t think of any other reaction to have to it? Well, it happened to us, and it happened at the Marina Bay Sands Hotel in Singapore…

And no, it didn’t involve anything related to the warning on this passport insert:

Singaporean passport insert warning of the death penalty for drug traffickers.
You were warned!

The reason Halef and I can travel so much is that we tend to travel frugally. We don’t really splurge all that much, we stay at hostels or use Couchsurfing instead of hotels and we eat street food or at inexpensive restaurants. And unless it’s a free upgrade we get with airline status, we certainly don’t fly first class. That sort of budget living changed in one fleeting moment when we decided we wanted to stay at the Marina Bay Sands hotel.


Sticker Shock

We decided to treat ourselves to an experience we’re just not used to. Halef and I were traveling back from Indonesia and our flight happened to go through Singapore. We’d only have about a day and a half there, and we knew we wanted to check out the food-hawkers and several other things. We also wanted to stay at the Marina Bay Sands Hotel. The pictures I saw looked incredible. It seemed like a touch of exclusivity and class that I wasn’t used to that I simply wanted to check out.

Michael, standing in front of the Marina Bay Sands Hotel in Singapore
In front of the Marina Bay Sands Hotel in Singapore

Besides, it was at the end of our vacation and we didn’t really need to worry about the money. So we looked it up, thinking it would be a couple hundred dollars. And there, on the computer screen in front of us, reality set in:

Trip Advisor screen showing the price of a room at the Marina Bay Sands to be $397
The price for a room at the Marina Bay Sands is $400/night.

That price stunned me a little when I saw it. I travel for work occasionally. We usually stay at the Marriott, where the price is rarely over $170/night. I still think that’s is totally screwed up for a bed and a toilet, so when I saw the $400 price tag, it was a bit of a downer. But, this was something we really wanted to do, so we pushed the button and bought the room. It was just one night, after all – and we had an American Express with a decent limit!

Checking in – where “it” happened

It was a fairly normal check in the morning we arrived. We were greeted at the counter by a lovely woman who asked us our names and engaged in some small talk as she brought up our reservation on her screen. I noticed that it seemed unusually quiet for such a famous hotel. I mean, at such a chic hotel, I was expecting the paparazzi to be waiting for us as we arrived. Alas, we weren’t destined for Southeast Asian stardom that day.

BUT, we were destined for something, and that’s where the story gets interesting. Our conversation with the woman at Registration continued:

“Have you ever been to Singapore?”
“I have,” Halef replied. “Michael hasn’t though. It’s his first time here.”
“Well, Singapore is a fun place and I’m sure you’ll have a great time. Welcome!” she smiled at me, welcoming me to her city. And then, “Let me see if I have any upgrades available.”

The upgrade of all upgrades

Now, when I think “upgrades” at a hotel, I usually think “bigger bed” or a slightly larger room with maybe a separate bedroom. At the Marina Bay Sands though, an upgrade apparently means something quite different.

Our living room at the Marina Bay Sands. It's massive, with a huge couch and an office.
Our living room at the Marina Bay Sands

This place was unlike any hotel room we’ve ever been in, let alone stayed in. The room was massive – probably 4-5 times the size of your average room. The living room itself was bigger than the condo we live in. Honestly, we just walked around the room, giggling, because we were at a loss for words.

The room had a full office, including a multipurpose scanner/fax/printer:

Fax machine, scanner, printer, phone on the desk in our room
No using the business center like lowly commoners. It’s all right here!

The bedroom was huge. Here, Halef enjoys his Marina Bay Sands bathrobe while catching up on his reading:

Halef on the bed at the Marina Bay Sands
Marina Bay Sands bedroom

I kept thinking to myself, how in the hell are we going to get any use out of this room? I honestly wished we could have stayed here for at least a week. There was so much room and only about 18-20 hours to enjoy it. If I knew we were getting an upgrade like this, we would have planned the biggest Singapore meet-up in history!

Surely, that was it, right?

And then, we opened yet another door:

Our private gym at the Marina Bay Sands
Yes, our room had a gym!

An elliptical, pilates ball, weights, and various other implements of physical fitness. Our room had a gym, complete with a large flat panel television. Again, no mixing with the commoners at the real gym downstairs. But again, we had so little time here that this room didn’t get any use. But it was there, should the urge to exercise strike us!

And the bathrooms were positively regal:

His and hers sinks
His and hers sinks
The tub, in one of two bathrooms in our suite
The tub, in one of two bathrooms in our suite

Outside our room (which incidentally was on the 53rd floor right next to the Presidential Suite) the balcony spanned the entire length of the suite. It was massive. You could easily party on the balcony with 50+ people with room for more! And the view was stunning!

The view of Singapore Bay from our room at the Marina Bay Sands.
The view from our room

The famous Marina Bay Sands infinity pool

When all is said and done, this is where people want to be. At the Sands, every guest gets a pass that allows him access to the infinity pool. While there is a bar at the top that everyone can access, only guests get to experience sitting at the edge of the pool on the 57th floor to gaze out over this magnificent city.

Halef, enjoying the Infinity Pool
Halef, enjoying the Infinity Pool, iPhone in hand!

Of course, every pool requires a lifeguard, and the pool at the this world-renowned hotel is no different, except that the lifeguard here clearly had a death wish. Not only would he walk along the edge, he’d sometimes “slip” throw his arms into the air and pretend to be off balance. If he fell, he would have 57 floors to think about the stupid mistake he just made. Now, there’s a metal mesh walkway that you can see in the picture that runs along the outside of the pool, presumably to catch anyone (say, an insane lifeguard) who happens to fall.

But all I am thinking is, “Man, that wire mesh walkway looks like it might have quite a bounce to it!”

This lifeguard walked along the slippery edge of the pool. He scared the crap out of us!

At the end of our first day, I threw my pool pass into a trash can in the lobby. We were ready to go to bed. But not 10 seconds passed when I noticed someone putting his hands into the trash bin to fish it out. Clearly, a pool pass is so highly prized that one would even reduce oneself to dumpster diving to get it!

So, was it worth it?

I’ve often been told how lucky we were to get such a fantastic room. But I don’t see it that way – not really. We didn’t have nearly enough time to enjoy it. We couldn’t have people over, we couldn’t take advantage of all the amenities, we didn’t have time to relax with a coffee and breakfast and enjoy the incredible view from our balcony. A room like this needs time to sink in. Again, we spend most of our time giggling at the absurdity of it all. The room we paid for was $400 USD. The room we got was $2094 per night!

Like a lot of travel adventures with pleasant surprises like this, the best part of the story is the story itself. We stayed in a room next to the Presidential Suite. In other words, we got to experience what the people who travel with world leaders get to experience! And while it was awesome, it’s much more fun to tell people about it than it was to actually stay there. The downside is that we will probably never stay at this hotel again. Even if we wanted to, how could we ever match that room??

Take a look at our video:

Want more Singapore? Check out Nomadic Notes’ Singapore Travel Guide!

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Michael is originally from Canada but now resides in Atlanta, GA with his husband, Halef, who also writes here. He is a Couchsurfing expert and has traveled to over 40 countries to date. Currently saving all his money for a Round the World adventure.

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