Singapore's Raffles Hotel is one of the most widely-known hotel names, up there with other luxury spots like the Waldorf-Astoria, the Ritz and Claridge's. It has featured or been mentioned in hundreds of books and films, almost always as a symbol of British empire and colonialism.
And it works hard to keep that impression today, maintaining its slightly antiquated decor, the names of its famed bars (although in new locations), its signature drink (the Singapore Sling was invented here) and its corps of Sikh doormen in white turbans.
No, that's not Queen Elizabeth visiting, although some might think of her as a queen of the screen: It's Elizabeth Taylor helping herself to the buffet in 1957.
The hotel has greatly expanded from its origin as a converted beach cottage, with new wings added in both the 19th and 20th centuries around its courtyards. Even so, despite its apparent size, it's really a boutique hotel, with only 115 rooms, all suites, after its most recent update.
We stopped by one afternoon in Singapore, simply because of its name and fame and because it seemed wrong to leave Singapore without at least having a sling. So we waited our turn and had one, along with handfuls of peanuts.
Along with several restaurants and bars, the hotel is host to a shopping mall, integrated with the various buildings, and selling only luxury goods—high end watches, very old whiskey and the like.
It's also connected, corporately, to a larger modern shopping mall across the street that goes by the name Raffles City, as well as to other hotels in other parts of Asia that also use the Raffles name. Being part of a chain isn't really new for it; the Sarkies brothers who opened it in 1887 also opened luxury hotels elsewhere up the Peninsula, including the Eastern and Oriental in Georgetown, Penang.
For those not wishing to wait for a seat in the Long Bar and a Singapore Sling, there are options, such as this Aperol Spritz cart in one of the gardens. George G recognized this as our One-Clue Mystery this week.
Some more views of the colonnades and gardens...
Set as it is in an area filled with clusters of malls, office buildings, other hotels and the like, it seemed like an entirely different place to the Singapore we had been visiting with its lively streets in Chinatown, Little India and more. It seemed ironic to me that this iconic place seemed hardly to be in Singapore!