Breathless. That’s the only word to describe the sensation as the door to my room, rather, suite, is flung open at the Ritz Carlton, Millenia Singapore. A wall made entirely of glass stands before me, presenting a view of the Marina Bay; its now famous hotel tower, and the F1 racetrack below. There is no way to be cool about this view. I may have stayed in dozens of five-star hotels, but none have come with such an arresting picture window.
This hotel is all about aesthetics...as I move from the sitting room, with its clean lines, and beautiful bleached wood tables, into the bathroom, where a bathtub big enough for two is punctuated by a carved out octagon window showcasing the Singapore Flyer over the bay (think London Eye). It’s an incredible excuse to spend the evening in.
There’s an incredible emphasis on scenery, with every room lit naturally, yet black-out blinds, a bed built for a princess, and an entire pillow menu, give way to a good night’s sleep. And on the nightstand, sits a copy of “Diplomacy: A Singapore Experience,” written by S Jayakumar, former UN ambassador and foreign minister for Singapore. I picked it up, read a few pages, and wished I was here long enough to get to the end. This hotel’s emphasis on culture can’t be underestimated.
As I sit at the desk, looking out at the Bay, I realise if I was here on business, chained to my hotel room desk all day, I could very easily work around the clock, watching the landscape in front of me shift with the light.
I take a tour of a standard room, to ensure I’m not just being seduced by the Premier Suite, with its Acqua di Parma toiletries and bath pillow. In a refreshing case of all things being equal or nearly, the standard rooms are simply a slightly smaller version of the suites. The same light, airy feeling permeates no fewer windows, no smaller a tub. In fact, the only differences I can spot are house-brand toiletries, and enough sitting space for four people, rather than six. Views are either of the bay, or, as I’m told Japanese clients prefer, the skyline view, filled with Singapore’s lush greenery. A 46-inch flat screen TV is in every room, though frankly, between the views, the art, and the city to explore, the TV is the last thing I’m interested in.
The hotel was designed by Pritzker-award winning Irish architect Kevin Roche. And no detail seems to have been spared on creating a visually engaging space with tall ceilings with rooms that flow seamlessly.
I’m told the hotel owners are passionate about art, and hired California-based art consultant Elizabeth Weiner to curate the 4200 piece collection. The modern art at the Ritz is a central feature and part of the draw for many guests. A self-guided podcast is available to download, or through iPods at the Concierge desk, guests can learn about the significant works, profiles of the artists, and an analysis of the works. A 30-minute stroll through the hotel’s public areas reveals some of the biggest names in modern art, from Frank Stella to David Hockney, and Henry Moore. In fact, the art begins before one even steps foot inside the Ritz Carlton, Millenia, when greeted by two life-size sculptures in Mao suits by Zhu Wei, at the driveway. They’re meant to be reminiscent of the Xi-Ann terracotta warriors, but in reality, they look like teddy bears dressed up as Mao dolls.
Dale Chihuly, the American glass artist known for reviving the ancient Venetian glass-blowing technique, makes a typical bold statement with two pieces, "Sunrise," made of 300 ribbed glass pieces in yellows and light greens, and "Sunset," a mirror image with multi-coloured stalks and bulbs mingling with real foliage in enclosed gardens.
There are four Hockneys. One is, by far, the most interesting Hockney I’ve seen, and living in England, I’ve seen quite a few. It’s a crayon lithograph in black and white of “Celia,” the wife of a friend who sat for Hockney a number of times. This one has a very vintage, Parisian feel to it. The best joke of all is some of the placements. Some are placed to complement their surroundings, like Frank Stella’s “Moby Dick,” near the pool area. But a Hockney at the gym entrance is someone’s very amusing, ironic humour at play.
The Ritz Millenia pays such attention to detail, they’ve created a set of six bookmarks detailing a selection of works, and individual ones are delivered as part of the turn-down service. Of all the souvenirs I’ve picked up in Singapore, this is by far, the most useful and memorable.
I’m tempted not to leave the Ritz. It’s humid and rainy, and with all this eye candy there seems little point. But, apparently shopping is a major part of local culture, so I feel obligated to do some research. After a brief chat with the concierge, I’m pointed in the right direction for affordable, local boutiques. Thankfully, the hotel is conveniently located next to two shopping malls, both accessible by a covered walkway. Interesting eateries and boutiques inhabit each of them, and there’s even a small Korean supermarket to be found.
Orchard Road, Singapore’s answer to Fifth Avenue or Oxford Street on steroids is a short cab ride. But when the world’s most expensive bookmark is ready and waiting at the Ritz Millenia, why bother?
Ritz Carlton, Millenia Singapore
7 Raffles Avenue, Singapore
+65 6337 8888