The 28th SEA Games Experience: The Week I Holed Up in Marina Bay Sands at the End of Every Race Day

There were several reasons I was looking forward to the 28th Southeast Asian Games (SEA) Games in Singapore last June. Apart from the prospect of seeing colleagues again, some of whom I have not seen since the last SEA Games in Myanmar in 2013, I was also excited to perform international technical official (ITO)/jury duties in Singapore —  which I have not done before.

(photo credit: Aileen Clemente) taken by my former workmate who is now based in SG during our quick meet-up
(photo credit: Aileen Clemente) taken during the quick meet-up with a former workmate who is now based in SG
View from the Finish Tower with MBS in the background
View from the Finish Tower at the rowing venue with MBS in the background
view from the Start Area
view from the Start Area

All of us rowing ITOs received our personalized Letter of Identification, which would help facilitate our entry to SG and access to the Games Transport, about a few weeks before our scheduled departure. The letter contained other information including details about our accommodation, which to our surprise was at Marina Bay Sands (MBS) hotel. MBS is one of Singapore’s iconic tourist attractions. Its SkyPark® alone is famous for its Infinity Pool overlooking a scenic view of the city state’s skyline.

I arrived in Singapore on June 9 via a direct flight from Davao. I was pleasantly surprised to see a female SEAG liaison officer patiently waiting for me as soon as I came out of the plane. I think it only happened twice before. I often meet games airport liaisons just before I head to immigration in the most recent events I have been to. The gesture was a welcome surprise since it made it easier for me to proceed quickly to where I was supposed to go.

After completing immigration procedures, the liaison brought me to the Transport Desk. I only waited for a bit before we left for MBS. I traveled to the hotel with a lady ITO (for waterskiing) from Taiwan. With the evening traffic, it took us about 20 minutes to get to MBS.

The first thing that hit me was the number of cars arriving in front of the hotel. Tower 1 lobby was busy with all the arrivals. There was a dedicated check-in area for SEA Games delegates, but since there were only hotel staff in charge in it, checking-in was not as smooth as I hoped it would be. I was expecting that a SEAG staff would also be there to assist us. Thankfully, the hotel’s receptionists were efficient.

The foot traffic in Tower 1 (where I was booked) was overwhelming. I could not wait to get up to my room and rest. Finding the correct lifts going to my room’s floor was initially confusing for me. But I liked the security given that only those with keycards can operate the lifts.

I loved my room at first sight. It was big that not even the king-sized bed could dwarf it. There was a huge Philips ultra slim LED TV. The bathroom was likewise spacious with an enclosed toilet and a separate bath area with a massive bathtub. I liked their choices of toiletries. I rarely use all toiletries in hotels where I have stayed  (except at the Grand Prince Hotel New Takanawa near Shinagawa station in Tokyo where the complimentary shampoo and conditioner were divine) but I enjoyed using all the toiletries at MBS including the lotion that was not the usual greasy stuff in some hotels.

July 11:: View from my room's balcony after the first day of races (Finals for 500m). Perfect bed weather.
July 11:: View from my room’s balcony after the first day of races (Finals for 500m). Perfect bed weather.

Everything about the room was tasteful. I had everything I needed there. I also liked that there was an iron and ironing board conveniently hidden inside one of the closets. There was also a small in-room safe. I likewise enjoyed the selection of TWG teas that include my favorite Jasmine green tea, chamomile, and English breakfast tea. The room also has a balcony with a view of the Gardens by the Bay across it. Most of my colleagues who were given rooms in Tower 3 even had a good view of the rowing venue from their rooms.

Our breakfasts were served at the Heliconia Main Ballroom at Level 3 of Sands Expo and Convention Centre. The building sits across the street from Tower 1. The were plenty of delicious food. And there was a separate room for Halal food. I have never seen the place crowded in all the mornings we were there for breakfast.

at the ITOs' designated breakfast area
at the ITOs’ designated breakfast area
Vegetarian Club Sandwich (avocado, sharp cheddar cheese, tomato, cucumber, butter lettuce on wheat toast & fries). My late dinner during my first night at my room in MBS Tower 1.
Vegetarian Club Sandwich (avocado, sharp cheddar cheese, tomato, cucumber, butter lettuce on wheat toast & fries). My late dinner during my first night at my room in MBS Tower 1.

I ordered in-room dining my first night in MBS since I was the last to arrive and it was already late. Since I was still was still unfamiliar with the lay-out of the expansive hotel, I opted to just eat in my room. The following night, I had dinner with a fellow rowing ITO at the MBS shoppes food court. I was also finally able to explore the place which was home to several luxury brand shops. My colleagues from Myanmar and Vietnam and I also watched the impressive water fountain show.

What I heard about MBS being pricey is true. But I now understand why many still choose to stay there not just because of the casino. Staying there was really an enjoyable and relaxing experience that I did not even want to go anywhere after coming back from our daily jury duties. I was perfectly happy hibernating in my room or buying treats at my favorite place — the Cold Storage — which is a supermarket located at B2 of The Shoppes in MBS. The Infinity Pool was also a pretty as the pictures I have previously seen of it. But it was often crowded to the seams so I preferred being there early in the morning as soon as it opened at 6:00AM. Unfortunately, we always had an early start so there were not many chances for me to enjoy some peace and quiet in there. But visiting it a few times was enough.

Infinity Pool at 6:00AM
Infinity Pool at 6:00AM

So if someone asks me if I would splurge on a luxury hotel like MBS, I would say yes, IF I have the money to spare. I had a great time there. Thank you for the hospitality, MBS and the Singapore SEA Games Organizing Committee!

SEAG

[This recently concluded SEA Games was easily one of the most memorable events I have been to. I was grateful to be given different assignments including challenging ones. It was the first time I got assigned as Responsible Judge at the Finish (chief judge). I was also assigned as Judge at the Start on that race day when the weather turned bad towards the end of the races, which made the process of aligning and starting quickly more challenging. I also appreciated the chance to serve as umpire 1 during the 1000m Final races under not so perfect-weather conditions. I was happy that the difficult lightweight women’s coxless four (LW4-) race finished without any incident despite the unfavorable weather and the difficulty all the LW4- crews had in steering and staying within their lanes from start to finish.]

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