Tuesday, January 27, 2015

Writers' Bar at the Singapore Raffles Hotel


'Raffles stands for all the fables of the exotic East.' 
~ Somerset Maugham



What writer could resist drinking in the same spot that must have witnessed a tipsy Kipling, a maudlin Maugham, a depressed Conrad? What writer could pass up a chance to stay a night in the same hotel that was once upon a time graced with Pablo Neruda and James Michener? What writer wouldn't be seduced by a hotel that has a historian of its own? (Leslie Danker has been with the hotel for more than 40 years, and even has a book to his name, Memoires of a Raffles Original.)

And so, in mid-January 2015, I had the honour of adding my name to the likes of Audrey Hepburn, Nelson Mandela, Kate Middleton (as well as her less-famous husband). I'm not sure how they spent their time at the Singapore Raffles Hotel, but I ordered a Singapore Sling: a cocktail invented in 1915 by bartender Ngiam Tong Boon at the Raffles Hotel as a ladies’ drink. Today, the Sling is the signature drink of Singapore Air and is enjoyed by men and women alike. The ingredients, as revealed by the Raffles Hotel include: gin, cherry brandy,  pineapple juice, lime juice, Cointreau, Dom Benedictine, Grenadine, Angostura bitters, topped off with a slice of pineapple and Maraschino cherry. 

The Raffles Hotel also comes with its own unique stories, pure magic to a writer's ear. Did you know... that in August 1902 a live tiger was found under the Bar & Billiard Room? Or that during World War 2, the silver beef wagon from Raffles Grill was buried in the Palm Court to save it from wartime looters, and was later recovered to be still used in the restaurant to this day? Or that Noel Coward played the part of Captain Stanhope in `Journey’s End’ while staying at the Raffles in 1930? Or that the now-majestic Raffles Hotel opened its doors on 1 December 1887 as a 10-room bungalow on the beach front? (Today, the sea has been reclaimed as land and the beach is a good block away.)

Rooted in history, the Raffles Hotel is an oasis of authenticity among the desert of modern artificiality that is Singapore today. Don't get me wrong, as a piece of contemporary architecture, the Marina Sands Bay Hotel is an impressive building, with its three towers and an infinity pool shaped like a boat on the 57th floor. But go inside, and it's a sausage factory primed to process tourists as fast and as anonymously as possible. In comparison, the Raffles is bathed in history, the Raffles is synonymous with opulent personalised service, the Raffles has a soul.

My stay here is one of my favourite memories. And I will be back.

PS: If you look at my blog's tagline, you'll see it starts with: "Have you ever noticed how the good things start with the letter S? Sex, scuba diving, sleep, single malt and Saturdays. " I can now proudly add Singapore's Raffles Hotel to the list of the best things in life.

The Raffles Hotel, Singapore

The Sling at the Raffles Hotel

Raffles Hotel, Writers Bar

Raffles Hotel, the lobby

Raffles Hotel, a closer look at the lobby

High tea at the Raffles

Raffles Hotel, one of the suites

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