My previous entry featured our long travel day from Los Angeles to Tokyo to Singapore, which then culminated with a stay at Marina Bay Sands.
If there was one thing Nancy wanted to cross off her bucket list, it was to stay at Marina Bay Sands (MBS). To be honest, I was totally against the idea because I’m all about using my points earned with my credit cards where I can get a free night’s stay or use those points to get a greater value. A night at MBS starts at $489 SGD (or roughly $350 USD) plus taxes and fees. Not exactly the cheapest place to stay.
Frankly, all I needed was a place to sleep and shower, that’s all. But thanks to the miles and points we’ve earned, it had allowed us to stay at many of the world’s luxurious hotels for free. Only in my wildest dreams would I have stayed at the Park Hyatt Paris Vendome, London’s May Fair Hotel, Park Hyatt Sydney, and Park Hyatt New York. All of those hotels charged between $700 to over $1,000 per night.
Ok, so what’s the big deal with MBS? It’s not exactly facing the Eiffel Tower. It doesn’t have gorgeous views of the Sydney Opera House. But what’s eye-catching about MBS is it’s architectural beauty. The towers with ship-like looking boat at the very top that connects all three towers. There’s an observation deck, restaurant and bars on the top level (57 stories high), and the amazing infinity pool (reserved for guests only).
If you are not a guest of the hotel:
- For $23 SGD, you can still access the rooftop observation deck, and view the infinity pool from a distance…that’s it. You can take all the selfies and group shots you want. You can buy souvenirs, etc.
- Ce La Vi – yeah, yeah, I know it’s supposed to be C’est La Vie, but who cares, this club lounge could get you in for free at the rooftop observation area (so I’ve heard). As long as you order a drink or food, then you’re golden. You will still not have pool access by entering this lounge.
I searched high and low to find a way to get to use the pool (by paying an access fee or something), but everywhere I checked, everyone seemed to point at booking a stay at MBS as your key to use the pool.
When we started to plan where we’d stay in Singapore, a stay at MBS was a tall order. I worked with my cousin, Joey, and he inquired about getting a lower rate. He was able to get a special rate available only to select high-rollers. I kept asking Joey how I could send my payment, but he kept dodging the topic, until finally he said that it was their welcome gift for us. Thanks, Joey and Yam!!!! So there, that’s how we ended up staying at Marina Bay Sands.
Ok so where were we? Ok, before we went to bed, Nancy and I agreed to wake up early so we could go back up to the pool, swim some more, have breakfast, and savor every last bit of our MBS stay. That’s exactly what we did. While the pool opened at 6am, we got there close to 7:30am. I picked up a flaky croissant, and a blueberry cake. We had the tastiest coffee from our room, it was just an instant coffee, but so good. For the next three hours, we found ourselves battling with the weather. It wasn’t a stormy weather or anything. But it was cloudy and drizzled for a while. I actually enjoyed it. Growing up, I was never allowed to play in the rain. So there I was, like a kid, in an infinity pool, in Singapore…playing in the rain.
Our checkout was at 11am, but I asked for an 11:30am checkout instead. Joey was on his way to pick us up, and for some odd reason, of all days, he experienced slowdown on his way to MBS. But no worries. We hung out at Sweet Spot, the breakfast/pastries coffee shop located in the lobby. I had no cell phone service. I relied on WiFi alone for this trip. So as long as we had WiFi service, we were able to communicate with Joey.
It was already close to 1pm when Joey arrived at MBS. For the next couple of days, he arranged for the three of us to go to Malaysia. Instead of flying, he suggested that we hire a driver. We met Suresh, our driver for the next couple of days. Suresh lives in Malaysia, close to the Singapore border. This is actually Suresh’s business – driving tourists around, and his service was recommended to Joey.
We made our way towards the border. First, it was leaving Singapore, there was a brief wait as we left Singapore and we then drove towards the Malaysian border. This was where we had bumper to bumper traffic. It looked like everyone from Singapore wanted to go to Malaysia that afternoon. We must’ve snaked through the slow traffic for about an hour. Once we got past the traffic, we were back on the freeway. I didn’t know what to expect with Malaysia. All I knew was the fact that we were 300 km away from Kuala Lumpur, therefore, we were just sitting in the car. Thankfully, we weren’t exactly that bored. Joey and I had more opportunities to put all our family puzzle pieces together, we also talked to Suresh about things we’d do and see while in Malaysia. We finally made it to Melaka close to 6pm. First impression, lots of shops, restaurants, stores – but all looked closed. But we were told they’d open later that evening.
Suresh dropped us off near a landmark where an old church once stood. We took pictures right before sunset, and just admired the architecture, the character of this old church. We strolled down and noticed lots of tricycles that were elaborately decorated with themes of Hello Kitty, Frozen, Beauty and the Beast, Despicable Me….they were brightly lit, and played loud music. No, we didn’t ride the tricycles. It was good enough to watch them pass by.
Instead, we spent the next hour and walked down what looked like a street fair. Lots of vendors. Lots of food and gadgets, clothing….yes, after all, we were in Asia. We took a little break and had fried squid and fresh coconut. That was enough to satisfy our hunger. We still had an hour left of driving before getting to KL.
We finally made it to KL past 11pm. Instead of heading straight to our hotel, Suresh drove us around the city, and took us to the Petronas Twin Towers. Although we had tickets to go up the towers on Sunday, we decided to take pics here at night, since our visit on Sunday will be focused indoors. What a beauty. It’s not exactly silver in color alone. More like golden brown – not sure if that made sense. It was stunning. We took turns in taking pics and admiring the beauty of these towers.
After dozens of selfies, we headed back to the car and Suresh then drove us to a section of KL where there were street food restaurants and merchants. At past midnight, this place was bustling with activities, street performers, lots of vendors, and most of all, aromatic food. We opted to go with a restaurant that accepted credit cards. We didn’t really want to carry wads of cash around. For our dinner, we ordered Beef and Chicken Satay, Tom Yum Seafood soup, Mantau, Chili Crab, and fried rice. While I was looking forward to eating the crab, I got to tell you that the Tom Yum soup was the star. The tartness of the soup – delicious, coupled with the chunky seafood mix, perfection!
Finally, it was time to check in to our hotel. I’ve heard many things about insane deals in Malaysia when it comes to hotels. Insane as in inexpensive when it comes to paying in cash or points. I didn’t want to pay a single dime so I used 15,000 Marriott Reward points and booked us a standard room at JW Marriott Kuala Lumpur. For 15,000, we were able to book a standard room with 2 beds. But I wrote to the hotel manager a few days before our trip, and was advised that I’d be getting an upgrade. Indeed an upgrade was given. We were upgraded to a Junior Suite, just perfect for me, Nancy, and Joey. The hotel decorated our bed with swans which added a nice touch. Lesson-learned on today’s upgrade? Ask nicely and you shall receive. That’s all for now…
How we got started to travel for nearly for free
There are many credit cards out there. The points earned with Chase have been my favorite for many years. These Ultimate Rewards points could be used for airfare, hotel, car rentals. Here are the Chase Cards that I, myself, use on a regular basis which can earn you these Ultimate Rewards.
a. Chase Sapphire Preferred (click here)– earn 60,000 Chase Ultimate Rewards.
The Chase Sapphire Preferred is a perfect starter card. With its current 60,000 bonus points, those points alone have gotten us two tickets to Hawaii, have gotten us to many countries and cities in Europe and Asia, just as an example. The sign up bonus alone can be worth as much as $1,000 or more in travel.
– 60,000 Ultimate Rewards sign up bonus after $4,000 in spend in the first three months
– Points are transferable to:
- Hotel Partners
- Airline travel partners
- United Airlines
- British Airways
- Southwest Airlines
- Singapore Airlines
- Flying Blue
- Virgin Atlantic
- Aer Lingus
– Points are worth 1.25 cents each when redeemed through the Ultimate Rewards travel portal
– Primary rental car collision damage waiver
– Earn 2X points on all travel and dining
– $95 annual fee
If I were just starting out in earning miles and points, I suggest starting out with this card, the Chase Sapphire Preferred
b. Chase Sapphire Reserve – earn 50,000 Chase Ultimate Rewards (I don’t have an active link at the time this was published, feel free to search on the net for a recent link, or check with me). Here’s a write up that I wrote on both Sapphire cards.
c. Chase Ink Business Preferred– earn 80,000 Chase Ultimate Rewards, perfect for those with small business.
I value my points earned with Chase. Here’s a write-up I wrote last year as to how we travel for nearly free (click here) with points earned with these credit cards.
For other cards that have helped us travel for nearly free, I recently I updated my favorite travel credit cards. I’ve also written this recently:
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Lastly, here Reader Success Tales that I featured on my site.
- Ben and Family’s visit at the Andaz Maui
- The Yamaguchi’s European Holiday Vacation
- Stephen & Fiona’s Aspirational Trip to Japan
- $80 Trip to Costa Rica for 2 – Vanessa’s Tale
- Traveling is not just for the rich – Iza’s $11 Trip to Hawaii
- Last-minute trip to Hawaii – Bryan & Emily’s Tale
- The Smith Sisters conquer New York City – Gina’s Tale
- Seeing the world through my children’s eyes – Maricar’s tale