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Tuesday, November 2, 2010

Singapore's Marina Bay Sands

Typically, nomadic wanderings and world-class resorts don’t really cross paths. Any regular traveler can appreciate a bit of luxury now and then, but generally the idea is to keep costs low, keep experiences authentic, and avoid commercial tourist traps. Let’s face it: you can’t exactly pull off the nomad label if you’re laying out on a memory foam cabana bed having your feet massaged. Nevertheless, there’s something a little different about the Marina Bay Sands in Singapore. Yes, it’s a giant, gleaming facility that resembles what we imagine the skyscrapers of a future Earth might look like. At the same time, it towers over an area so full of distinct culture, with such authenticity threaded in between the tourist traps, that it still feels in-bounds, so to speak.

Here’s how I’d recommend handling the area, particularly if you’re on a bit of a budget.

Avoid the Fine Dining

Any resort the caliber or scale of Marina Bay Sands can tempt you with fine dining. They’re all more or less the same: advertising a nice steakhouse, one or two places with international cuisine, and possibly a restaurant owned and loosely operated by a celebrity chef or known restaurateur. This is just the thing though - they’re all the same! While any given restaurant or menu item can make an impression, it’s extraordinarily difficult for a resort to stand out in this category. So really, you’re just paying a premium for something that isn’t ultimately very unique to a given property. Particularly if you’re on a budget, skip the nicer restaurants at Marina Bay Sands.

Eat At Satay Street

Instead of fine dining, venture just a very short distance from the hotel complex to Satay Street, one of a few areas in Singapore known for world-class street food. Said CNN rather eloquently, Boon Tat Street (which is the official name of the area known as Satay Street) magically transforms into a street food lover’s paradise around 7pm every night. The street comes alive with stalls and makeshift pavilions and produces some of the tastiest food in the entire region - all without any of the frills of the resort nearby.

Skip the Pool

If you think there’s a pool that’s cooler than the one on top of the Marina Bay Sands Skydeck, you’re probably wrong. This is subjective, really, but it’s hard to beat a rooftop bar-side infinity pool perched on top of one of the most modern and exciting cities on Earth. Unfortunately, it’s not simply open to the public. People have their tips for how to get in, but you generally have to stay a night at the hotel itself to gain access, and that’s simply an unnecessary expense.

Try the Casino

Most people who like casino gaming but don’t want to spend too much money will stick to the digital realm. Per a prominent resource for gambling activity, dozens if not hundreds of brand new sites launch to the internet every year, such that the game offerings are truly limitless. But while this can be more convenient and affordable, there’s still no harm in checking out a major casino when you’re in close proximity to one on your travels, and the one at Marina Bay Sands is fairly spectacular. Walk around, try out a few games if you like, and take it in - just don’t get carried away!

Skip the Theatre

If you spend a few minutes on the Marina Bay Sands website you’ll notice that its theatre complex gets a fair amount of promotion. It’s a busy attraction, with all kinds of shows passing through constantly. That said, while there are undoubtedly lovely performances, the theater experience at Marina Bay Sands is not typically included among its most highly rated allures. Given that it also costs money, it can be skipped unless there’s a certain show you’re just dying to see.

Tour the Museum

The museum, on the other hand, is a fascinating part of the resort, particularly given some of its cutting-edge exhibits, such as “Future World.” Pitched as a futuristic world of high-tech interactive artworks, it’s a difficult exhibit to describe, but an incredible one to see. And tickets, depending somewhat on date and time, can be as cheap as $10 or even a little less. This is a nice affordable activity that gives you a taste of the resort’s unique quality and a look at something you won’t see anywhere else.

Explore the Gardens

For one more word on the area, you should also be sure to spend a little bit of time exploring the brightly lit gardens and their elevated walkways. Known officially as the Gardens by the Bay, this area is slightly gaudy, somewhat artificial, and yet still entirely magical. It’s an easy and brilliant item to include on your list of things to do in Singapore.


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