Singapore: It stands starkly against the bright afternoon sun looking like a stretch limousine with flat tires that the gods mistook for a missing decor and, at a whim, decided to jazz up three columns with it. That was the thought running through my mind as I crossed the Helix Bridge to get to the much vaunted Sky Park of the newly-opened Marina Bay Sands. Upstaging the once popular Esplanade, nicknamed durian by the cab drivers, the Sky Park is fast becoming the favourite destination for weekend outings with friends or family. It’s not difficult to guess the reason why throngs of families, friends and whatnot flock to it, patiently enduring the snail crawl at the ticket box. The novelty of newness aside, the name itself promises a refuge peppered with a bit of tranquillity and fun from the highly urbanised landscape of Singapore.
My gal pal and I were very much in tourist mode that day. Having finished inspecting the Singapore Flyer, our itinerary most certainly included the Sky Park notwithstanding the S$20 entrance fee and the meandering queue. Excitement surged through me as we went up and emerged at the 56th floor. Questions swirled in my head.
“How would they have designed the place? What mind-blowing surprises awaited us? Would the S$20 be worth it?”
The enthusiasm fizzled out like a tire slowly losing air that not even the photo booth – picture yourself holding the Sky Park above your head or jumping off of it – would elicit a chuckle from the tackiness of the whole idea. It didn’t bode well when I spotted the couple about four- five people ahead of us in the queue at the ticket box already making their way back to the exit. Surely, they weren’t done at enjoying the Sky Park or were they? Undaunted by their quick departure, we strolled through three-fourths of the observation deck viewpoints filled with roiling feelings. It was awe at the sight of Marina Barrage, the ECP highway, Helix Bridge, Singapore Flyer, Marina golf course and East Coast Parkway area, Marina Financial District and the under-construction Garden at Marina Bay way below.
“The Helix Bridge was truly breathtaking, its palpable spiral structure hypnotically keeping you fixated on it.”
Bringing up the rear was exasperation at the scorching heat that the cold bottle of water from the drinks stall couldn’t assuage. The irritation grew with each passing minute I was on the observation deck, the searing rays of the sun getting underneath my skin.
“Is there any place on the observation deck to escape from the blasted wilting heat?!”
The queue was unbelievable long when we got back down to terra firma from the sky. I looked at the expectant visitors and wondered: Would they feel satisfied or would they feel short-changed like what we felt?
That Marina Bay Sands caters to the well-to-do travellers is not lost on the not-so-genteel visitors, which makes one wonder why Sky Park was opened to the public only to cordon off certain areas from the public and yet allow them within close proximity like the infinity pool area and the Garden Pathway lined with trees, plants and several Jacuzzis. Told at the outset that the area was off limits from the little people at the box ticket, instructions took a turn 56 floors up and outsiders were allowed to stroll down the infinity pool area. However, be careful in sitting on the benches within the pool area. This is the rule we learnt: you can sit, but don’t let your legs dangle over to the other side facing the pool. You and every part of your body must stay within the side of the trees, plants and Jacuzzis unless you want to be reminded (politely, at least) by one of the guards on duty that you’re not a guest of the hotel thus feet off.
“No worries, mate – point taken.”
Removing our offensive legs from the other side, we let our gaze rest on the infinity pool teeming with holiday-makers – some lazed on the sun bed as others made like beached up whales on one side – and the sun preparing to set. Beautiful – I’m not talking about the whales.
“I wonder how much a room costs.”
We should have heeded, on hindsight, the words of the woman at the ticket box. She pointed out that the restaurants wouldn’t be open until much later and that only light refreshments were sold. But we got caught up in the hype of wanting to be one of the first to visit the new iconic attraction of Singapore, failing to read between the lines and taking note of the weather that day. Perhaps in four months’ time the long queue and entrance fee would be eclipsed by the anticipated splendour that awaits the visitors to this expected haven. Perhaps – my fingers are crossed.
Photography by Fistri Abdul Rahim