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September 14, 2010

Towering Ambition

Not content with opening the world's priciest hotel, Singapore is shooting for high times.

A year ago, the most iconic building in Singapore didn’t exist: three curving towers crowned with a sky deck the length of three football fields that make up Marina Bay Sands. Fifteen years before that, the reclaimed land the hotel sits upon didn’t exist either. Singapore — one of the world’s healthiest economies — has become a city-state in constant motion. Blink and you’ll miss something new, and probably, awe-inspiring.

Let’s see, next on deck for the coming year: Asia’s first river safari park (with Giant Pandas from China); Gardens by the Bay, a 250-acre “Eden” with two stunning pod-shaped conservatories that have already taken shape; and a Louis Vuitton “island boutique,” set in an over-water crystal pavilion. The latter is under construction around the clock, as globorati witnessed on a recent visit — a seemingly common standard for Singapore’s blinding development.

But for now, it’s enough to digest all of Singapore’s latest wonders. Fifty-seven stories high, the Sands SkyPark atop Marina Bay Sands, which officially opened this summer, offers unparalleled views of the city and, for hotel guests, a stunning infinity pool (pictured first). Inside the world’s most expensive hotel, you’ll find 2,560 guestrooms, a high-end retail galleria, a huge casino, and restaurants that include the meticulous Guy Savoy.

It is only the second restaurant outside Paris for the multi-starred Michelin chef (the other is in a Vegas casino, naturally). However, if you were to draw the blinds on the bay view and concentrate only on the food — say, a terrine composed of perfectly formed layers of milk-fed poularde, foie gras and artichoke — you’d never know you were outside the French capital. Indeed, most of the ingredients are flown in from Paris.

Even when you’re not inside Marina Bay Sands, it’s hard to ignore it — lit up at night, it dominates Singapore’s morphing skyline — and the best seat in the house is at the new Fullerton Bay Hotel right across the water. The little sister to the historic Fullerton Hotel, the 100-room property (guestroom pictured) is literally glittering with mosaic tile floors and an oversized crystal chandelier that’s part of an Art Deco-inspired vibe. Encased in glass and squatting on concrete stilts, Fullerton Bay is the city’s only over-water hotel, and every room comes with a balcony and a water view.

The hotel’s highlight, though, is the rooftop terrace, called The Lantern (pictured second), which sports a 25-meter pool and a tapas bar. In the evenings the beautiful crowd congregates around daybeds and a circular bar (decorated with 36 swirling bronze fins) to sip berry mojitos and nibble on lamb samosas. On a recent summer night, a welcome breeze came off the bay as a live Cuban band played and an orange moon rose behind the Sands.

Of course, this is Singapore, and while the Fullerton Bay may be the jewel of its boutique hotels, it’s not the only new kid in town. Within a hip Chinatown enclave of bars and cafes, a 22-room black-and-white themed property called The Club has just opened. Its neighbor, the sensually-themed Scarlet hotel — individually designed suites bear names like “Passion” and “Swank”  — will open a Moroccan-inspired property called The Saff (as in saffron) this month.

But few can touch the year-old Quincy hotel when it comes to combining style with affordability. Located off the Orchard Road shopping corridor, the 108-room sleekly-designed property has a cantilevered 12th-story pool with a deck illuminated by color-changing LED lights (pictured fourth). Yet it’s the list of free amenities that really stuns: Yes, the mini bar is complimentary, as is the WiFi, but so is breakfast…and lunch…and dinner…with cocktails. Did I mention two pieces of laundry are on the house each day? Maybe your driver told you, after The Quincy sent him to pick you up from the airport — gratis.

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