The room money can't buy

The room money can't buy
By admin


It was good enough for Bill Clinton and it was intended for President Barack Obama before the US shutdown hampered his trip.

It's the Emperor Suite at the Empire Hotel, which comes without a price tag. You don't need money as much as you need a personal connection to the Sultan of Brunei.

As one of the world's largest suites, this is less hotel room, more mansion. With a footprint of 666 square metres, there's enough space to walk the perimeter and call it exercise. There's a view of the South China Sea to accompany that exercise as well.

But if you don't wish to exert yourself, a golf buggy will take you around the capacious property – 162 hectares in all. The Empire isn't just a hotel. It's also a country club.

The fortress-like door opens, revealing a sheen that only money provides. That sheen is gold-threaded carpet and gleaming marble. Before you ask, the gold, all the gold, is real. Generally about 24 carat's worth of bullion.

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 From the taps to the door handles to the towel rack to the chandeliers, this is solid, not plated. In terms of design, the style is art deco meets Arabian palatial meets 90s modern.

In case you fancy a tinkle on the ivories, there's a grand Fazioli piano that sounds good even if you are playing chopsticks. There's also a baccarat crystal camel that is adorned with 24 carat gold, including a saddle that turns into a lamp. Practical.

Worth $US250,000, you couldn't steal it if you tried. It takes six men to carry what is one of only three such masterpieces in the world.

At the end of the passage lies another door. The hotel guide stops here, waiting for our group of assembled journalists to gather. This, apparently, is the piece de resistance.

As the door opens, the blue of an intricately tiled marble pool and spa make us all want to jump in. In the interest of research, I do, dangling my feet to knee depth. If we'd known there was a private pool, we collectively agree, we would have brought swimwear.

There's a bar as well, but it is conspicuously bare. Brunei is a dry country, but perhaps when guests stay in this suite, the personal and devoted butler will rustle up a few mocktails from behind the drink platform. There's also a private movie screen which descends over the water at a push of a button.

It's not just the leaders of the free world who have stayed in the Emperor Suite. It seems the Sultan of Brunei is a fan of Mariah Carey, and he had her stay many years ago. Prince Charles rested his head here, as did King Abdullah of Saudi Arabia and Queen Beatrice of the Netherlands.

For guests like these, security is paramount. The Emperor Suite has a private elevator that goes to a private car park for safe entry and exit. 

Opposite the Emperor Suite is the Empress Suite, which is smaller in scale but similar in style. It is the only suite that has mirrors above the bed. The mirrored ceiling is a throwback to the days when the hotel was initially built, as a personal playground for the Sultan's brother. 

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For those of us who are not power-brokers, royalty or the Sultan's personal friend, there are miniature versions of the Emperor Suite's bedroom opulence. One level down in the room stakes are Executive and Ambassador suites. The walls in these rooms are padded and covered with Italian silk.

I experienced the Deluxe room, which is similar in design and furnishings to all the more extravagant suites above, albeit smaller in scale.

By the bed, one keypad with diagrams is your own personal butler to make your stay all the more comfortable. It manages your wake up call and alarm and subsequently eases both those rude shocks by opening your curtains with a finger push while you lie in bed.

Waking up to sunshine and being able to remain in a bed that is defined by plumpness of pillow and firmness of mattress is a pleasure you don't know you're missing until you try it.

Forget the Emperor's room – it turns out I'd be happy enough with automatic curtains.

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