I’ve always loved the way Americans use the word ‘insane’ with the emphasis on the second syllable to mean that something is fantastic. As in ‘You gotta try this lasagne, it’s insane!’, or ‘Ohmygod, she is insanely hot!’
But it always felt wrong when I tried it out. As a Malaysian Chinese who’s lived his whole life in Singapore and Australia, I might as well have pretended I spoke Yiddish. Oy vey. So, who knew that one morning I’d wake up at the Fullerton Bay Hotel and the first thing that popped into my head – ‘This is just insane!’ – would feel so natural and appropriate?
From the depths of my vast king-size bed, buried beneath a fluffy avalanche of white linen (judging from the quality of my sleep, it’s at least 400 thread count), I look out the full-length window of my Bay View Room onto a panorama straight out of some Bond flick.
Looming over the mirror-flat water are the three massive towers of the Marina Bay Sands casino/resort. Catching a glint of the morning sun, its giant cruise liner-shaped roof looks like a futuristic ark that’s become beached on the trio of buildings after the flood waters have receded.
Forget the hokey, time-worn cliche of Singapore as a boring old grump that jails everyone for dropping chewing gum. This is a country that has one of the highest GDP and per capita incomes in the world – and it has bigger fish to fry.
If I ever need a snapshot of Singapore Redux, it’s that dawn view from my room. And in the evenings, when the Marina Bay Sands puts on a synchronised water, music and laser show, the best seats in the house are also from my bed. Or, if you have the energy to leave your nest, the second-best seats are up on the rooftop bar, Lantern.
On our first day, the monsoon arrives early and turns the skyline into a translucent wall of misty noise and wet heat. ‘I do love this Nespresso coffee machine,’ Mr Smith says contentedly, as he takes a cup of steaming Lungo out onto the timber-decked balcony and sits on the cushioned bench to watch the thunderstorm.
Cleverly, the 98-room Fullerton Bay makes the most of its location in the city’s buzzy Central Business District. A hundred years ago, this was the spot where visitors and new migrants arrived by water taxi. Called Clifford Pier, it is now home to both the hotel’s foyer and a fancy Chinese restaurant. The original period ceiling has steel ribs and ornate buttresses, the double-height windows draw in the vista of the bay, and enormous chandeliers lend the whole place a delightfully over-the-top vibe.
Elsewhere, the floor is inlaid with glittering mosaic tiles, and the public spaces are furnished with a low-key Chinoiserie palette of historical black-and-white photos of the area, rosewood, vintage travelling chests and acres of marble.
Yet despite the Fullerton Bay’s grand statement pieces, it retains an unusual intimacy. For one thing, it never seems crowded. ‘I feel like I’m on a luxury yacht,’ Mr Smith murmurs as we walk down corridors lined with windows that overlook a central water courtyard.
Even the bedrooms have a cosiness that’s belied by their larger-than-average square footage. A glass wall separates the bathroom from the bedroom, and stainless-steel-edged doorframes and wall corners bounce light off the bay straight into the room.
Just about every luxury has been carefully thought about – from the Molton Brown toiletries and TV above the extra-large bath tub, to the easy-to-use light switches by the bed and wardrobe doors that click shut with the reassuring heft of a bank vault.
One morning, during a breakfast of fresh tropical fruits and a perfect made-to-order mushroom omelette in the high-ceilinged Clifford restaurant (in the evenings it serves up mod-French brasserie fare), I suddenly notice the low-slung stools next to each table for ladies’ handbags. It’s a small gesture, but it speaks volumes about the hotel’s commitment to the cause.
At just seven stories high, the Fullerton Bay is the only hotel in Singapore that’s built right on the water, which explains both the Sydney Harbour-front vibe and why it’s got some of the best views. In a city where hotels try to outdo each other with the most lofty vistas, there’s something to be said for seeing its highrise horizon from a much lower perspective.
‘I think a cocktail is in order,’ Mr Smith says one afternoon as we sit bubbling happily in one of the two private glass-encased Jacuzzis on the hotel’s rooftop pool deck. Around us soar gleaming skyscrapers filled with bank, law firm and Fortune 500 HQs.
While I imagine every office above us is moaning about the diving euro, I’m mentally making plans to nip down the road to the hotel’s sister property, the Fullerton Hotel, for a spa treatment. I calculate that I have a one-hour window first for a full-blown afternoon tea here in the hotel’s lobby lounge, the Landing Point.
Clearly Mr Smith has read my mind. ‘I feel so sorry for all those guys stuck in their air-conditioned cubicles, slaving away trying to save the world from financial ruin,’ he says pitilessly as he wiggles lower into the gurgling water.
‘I know, isn’t this just totally insane?’ I say.