Inside Abu Dhabi's seven-star hotel
I used to think the inflated hotel star-rating system that has seen the rise of seven-star facilities was ridiculous.
But standing in front of a vending machine that dispenses nothing but gold in the lobby of Abu Dhabi's Emirates Palace Hotel, it's starting to make sense.
The Gold to Go machine is only the tip of the extravagant iceberg that is this hotel, which is every bit as palatial as its name suggests and every bit as luxurious as its rating would have you believe.
Five stars wouldn't even begin to encapsulate the opulence of this mammoth 850,000 square metre structure, which has itself become one of the city's main attractions with tours conducted every hour.
I arrive at the hotel after midnight expecting to just quietly slip in. Instead I'm greeted by a row of staff at the entrance, my bags swiftly taken care of and am personally shown to my room.
"This is Pradeep. He'll be your butler during your stay," I'm told, as we approach a man waiting outside my room.
That's right - he said butler.
Pradeep shows me around my "Coral Room" - which at 55 square metres is the smallest the hotel offers - and hands me his business card and explains he's at my beck and call should I need anything day or night.
I must admit, being a simple girl from Sydney's western suburbs, this was a level of service and attention I was a little uncomfortable with, but who was I to refuse the private butler service offered to all guests.
At a cost of $US3 billion ($A2.86 billion), the Emirates Palace Hotel is the second most expensive hotel ever built, only surpassed by Marina Bay Sands in Sinapore.
But not to be outdone, the hotel made headlines last year when it unveiled the world's most expensive Christmas tree.
Towering at 13 metres, the tree itself was nothing special - it was the $US11 million ($A10.5 million) worth of jewels that was enough to send it straight into the Guinness World Records book.
Often mistaken for the presidential palace, the hotel boasts 114 domes and impressive features, such as the gold leaf-bedecked lobby.
Gold it seems is just strewn about everywhere you look. From the pillars in the hallways to the sinks in the lavish bathrooms and even on the indulgent food.
Five kilograms of pure edible gold is used each year just as decoration on the deserts served in the 16 restaurants and bars in the hotel.
There are more than 1000 Swarovski crystal chandeliers and the marble that abounds is imported from 13 different countries.
And that's not all that's imported.
So over the top is the level of extravagance that despite being a desert nation, even the beautiful white sand making up the 1.3km private beach is imported.
Not surprising then that the Emirates Palace offers the world's most expensive tailor-made holiday.
For around a cool $A1 million you'll get a week in the hotel's finest suite, first-class flights to and from Abu Dhabi, a Maybach luxury saloon complete with driver at your disposal, daily spa treatments, use of a private jet and gifts worth around $A100,000 just for starters.
And despite my staying in a "budget" room, I was still treated like royalty.
Speaking of which, the hotel has dedicated its entire sixth floor for actual royalty.
The topmost level has six Rulers' Suites which are reserved solely for Emirati royalty and dignitaries. So exclusive are these suites that the majority of staff have not even seen inside them.
And there I was sitting thinking this seven-star rating was nothing but hype.
Let me tell you, I could get used to being served refreshments as I relax on the spectacular private beach, before being pampered with a spa treatment while my butler tidies my room.
The writer was a guest of V Australia and Etihad Airways.
Emirates Palace Hotel has an early booker rate that has rooms from $243 per night for two, including buffet breakfast.
Visit the Abu Dhabi Tourism Authority.