Parkroyal Collection Marina Bay
Where: 6 Raffles Boulevard
Rates: Various staycation packages, such as the Mid-Autumn Festival at $400 a night in a Lifestyle Room. Includes Peach Blossoms mooncakes in a two-tiered Bluetooth box, $100 dining credit and late 3pm checkout. Offer valid till Sept 21.
So many staycays, so little time. What makes this hotel special?
This is a new "garden in a hotel" with a fantastical indoor forest, the fruit of a recent $45 million total transformation.
Nature is celebrated everywhere in the biophilic hotel, whether in the botanical cocktail menu or urban garden sprouting herbs, vegetables and dainty edible flowers.
A wellness respite in a luxury sanctuary is sane, more so during a prolonged pandemic.
I step onto a skybridge suspended over the four-storey forest below and walk towards the luminous hotel lobby to check in for a night.
Overhead is a skylight that pours sunshine into the theatrical 21-storey atrium designed by American neo-futuristic architect John Portman.
The lofty atrium is an original architectural feature of the Marina Mandarin, built in 1987 and now rebranded as this Parkroyal Collection property.
But the gardens and pavilions designed like stylised colossal bird's nests are new, including the Portman's Bar that nests in one.
Sounds uplifting. But can first impressions last?
I know the atrium is the loveliest spot so I savour it at different hours.
Mid-morning, I slide into a secluded corner with my laptop and barista-brewed coffee. A real songbird tweets and trills among the foliage.
The pavilions are very popular for afternoon tea. I do not have a slot, but I have seen how savvy hospitality staff find a way around overflowing wait-lists, and it happens here too.
Soon, I am relishing a nature-inspired picnic served from a tiny travel trunk. It opens to reveal sweet and savoury teatime treats such as mixed-citrus scones and unagi-and-tomato wrap.
From my perch, I have a bird's-eye view of the layers of forest composed of 2,400 trees and plants. It feels like a mini Jewel Changi Airport.
At the bar, a young South Korean mixologist concocts a bespoke mocktail from blue pea syrup, pineapple and lime juices, soda water, tart hibiscus cranberry leaf and zesty elements. The stirrer is lemongrass - the eco-hotel has eliminated single-use plastics.
The head mixologist reveals a new bamboo barrel that he has used to age negroni. It is fun to sample an experimental shot, which is smoother than non-aged versions.
I am seated again in the atrium for dinner, a pan-seared locally farmed barramundi with cauliflower rice, honey-soya emulsion and greens from the farm steps away.
I order a kimchi cocktail with sour and spicy notes reminiscent of a Bloody Mary, and watch the light show. It is romantic - a play of iridescent violet, pink and blue along the soaring atrium walls and suspended sculpture, Orchidea.
Lots to eat and drink. You haven't mentioned lunch?
At Peach Blossoms, young award-winning chef Edward Chong presents progressive Cantonese cuisine.
Some imaginative items he chooses for my table of two are off-menu, including Jeju abalone and sea urchin served with homemade noodles. Dusky-pink crab roe is moulded into a rose and he shaves it like truffle over the dish for umami. An arrangement of shells and corals evoke the sea.
The amuse bouche arrives in a mirrored treasure box, with mist rolling out. It contains a single perfect Japanese tomato marinated with vinegar and honey, plus a piquant tomato sorbet.
The chef likes to harvest vivid edible blossoms from the rooftop farm. It is his culinary playground and I spy him at 9pm, still energetic, ready to give two guests a tour.
Tell me your room has a view
All 583 rooms were overhauled by FDAT Architects, the architectural and interior design practice that refurbished the hotel.
Rooms are an eco-traveller's dream, with filtered freshwater taps, motion sensors and biodegradable bath amenities from Metis inspired by "science and sea". Coffee grounds from my Nespresso coffee capsules are recycled as compost for the farm.
That is just my room. Guests will discover low-carbon initiatives throughout the hotel - electric vehicles, solar panels, the massive air purifier that is the indoor forest.
Yes, the views. By day and night, I gaze at Singapore's much-admired skyline and picture the high ambition in its financial district, though the pandemic has half-emptied it. Marina Bay Sands, the Singapore Flyer, the Helix Bridge, the bay - all convey the story of Singapore.
What else is there to do?
Wander around the rooftop farm, which is tended by millennial farmers from Edible Garden City.
Executive chef Chan Tuck Wai says the farm is his green therapy and culinary inspiration. He is growing loofah for a festival on forgotten Hong Kong dishes.
There are 60 varieties of flora and he happily points out a whole spectrum from guava to golden papaya, and from roselle to chocolate mint.
The little farm supplies the restaurants, bar and spa. He says the hotel no longer has to order chilli.
Families will love the mineral-water pool, where there are child-size loungers and a new kiddie lap pool. Alternatively, everyone can pile onto a daybed.
There is also a St Gregory Spa for pampering and a spin-bike studio for workouts. Or do yoga with views of Marina Bay at The Green Space next to the pool.
I am content not to budge from my bubble, but the idea of a solitary stroll in Marina Bay is also appealing, so I head out in the evening.
Verdict: Bliss or Miss?
The hotel is an immersive experience, especially its verdant atrium. It is a whiff of escapism, when leisure travel remains a moving target.
Hot tip: Catch the ethereal light show at 7, 8 and 9pm. Iridescent light sweeps through the atrium for about 150 seconds and the colour contrasts are lovelier if you go later.
For more night magic, go to the swimming pool which is illuminated by 1,380 fibre-optic lights. It feels like swimming in a galaxy.
All this is even better with the promotional rates that new hotels like to roll out.
- The staycation was hosted by the hotel and is part of a series. For more staycation reviews, go to str.sg/SuiteLife.
- For more stories on exploring Singapore, go to str.sg/sg-go-where.