When competing with a plethora of five-star Singapore hotels, you need that certain something to give you the edge. Which is probably why the Marina Mandarin underwent a S$25m (£8.3m) makeover last year.
The John Portman-designed atrium is magnificent, stretching 21 floors up to a tinted skylight, with a cool glass elevator. Not to mention the dramatic cascading metal-mobile sculpture, in red and gold, which fills the cavernous space in the centre.
Leaning over the top balcony to gaze down to the fourth floor lobby-lounge is a slightly stomach-churning experience, but the view is phenomenal.
Chandeliers and sweeping staircases, back-lit by a rainbow of colours at night, appear dolls-house tiny. You hear the sound of live piano music tinkling up to your room after 7pm, and wake to nightingales (in hanging cages) singing so beautifully that many guests think it's piped in.
The emphasis on service is also evident, with the mineral water pool and gym open "24/7". "It's for all our guests checking in late or still operating on a different time zone," says the hotel manager.
Add to that a swish new spa and three excellent restaurants (eating is a national sport here). Choose between Aquamarine, devoted to seafood, Peach Blossoms for dim sum, while the Italian, overseen by chef Carlo Marengoni, serves mouthwatering dishes such as fresh pappardelle with prawns and veal shank with aromatic herbs.
Overall, too big and buzzy? That was the surprise. Even when full, the Mandarin manages to maintain an air of restful calm, which makes it a great place to return to after a day of sightseeing and shopping.
Marina Mandarin Hotel, 6 Raffles Blvd, Singapore (00 65 6845 1000; www.marina-mandarin.com.sg). Opposite Suntec City and attached to Marina Square shopping mall, with 300 shops. You're a short MRT (Mass Rapid Transport system) ride to the famous shopping belt Orchard Road, the vibrant Little India and Chinatown. Singapore is extremely compact.
Time to international airport: it's just 20 minutes to Changi airport in a taxi, for no more than S$20 (£6.70), or by public bus for S$1.70 (60p one way).
There are 575 rooms and suites, facing the city skyline or the harbour and out to sea. Decorated in natural beiges and creams, they're spacious and elegant. There's a swanky lighting system - with dimming controls for reading/relaxing/movies/sleep. All have fantastic bathrooms, a walk-in shower with huge showerhead, oversized mirrors, marble and smoked-glass walls. Rooms also have balconies.
Freebies: gorgeous-smelling Crabtree & Evelyn toiletries, fresh flowers, green tea, mineral water and a newspaper. In the Meritus Club rooms and suites, more "benefits" include coffee machines, laundry and 24-hour free internet access.
Keeping in touch: all rooms have Wi-Fi/broadband, plasma TVs and telephones.
THE BOTTOM LINE
Doubles from S$261 (£90) excluding breakfast. Hayes & Jarvis (0870 850 3565; www.hayesandjarvis.co.uk) offers five-night breaks to Singapore from £999 per person (valid 1 January-28 March 2007) including room-only accommodation and flights from Heathrow.
I'm not paying that: the trendy HangOut Hotel at 10A Upper Wilkie Road, Singapore (00 65 6438 5588; www.hangouthotels.com) has doubles starting from S$140 (£46) including breakfast.Reuse content