City, Hotels, Singapore, Travel

The Raffles unravelled, colonial chic in Singapore

7 December 2016
Raffles Singapore xmas decoration

‘Age is just a number’ not only qualifies for women over fifty, buildings like the Raffles Hotel in Singapore reflect the charm of aging as well.
This iconic hotel is a luxury oasis for the well-travelled in the heart of Singapore. Last week we stepped into a unique blend of tradition, history and colonial style as start of our 3-week trip through Asia.
What the Eiffel tower is for Paris, the Raffles is for Singapore. A mythological place that kept the best of the past and connects the West with the East. Fusion.
It may not the most modern (for now that is, a huge restoration is scheduled for next year) but certainly one of the most characteristic 5* hotels in the world.

“Raffles stand for all the fables of the exotic East”
__ W. Somerset Maugham – 1959

Many international royals, actors and writers passed the Sikh doorman – white turban and gold braids – before us and entered the huge, serene white marble lobby. Check-in is not done standing at the reception desk but arranged by our personal butler while we sip a welcome drink in the lobby. Hidden luxury.

Raffles Singapore

Our courtyard suite at The Raffles

A long white marble corridor leads to a tranquil veranda with rattan seats overlooking the square palmcourt. Our front yard for a few days and the perfect spot for taking in the beauty of it all.
Our suite – no. 117 – has a  separate charming little living room and large bedroom, high ceilings – with fans – and colonial French style furniture. Add oriental carpets on teak wood flooring to that for the full picture.
Soft and crisp sheets (yes!) on a kingsize bed, strong wi-fi (yes!), daily fresh tropical fruits and Nespresso machine and many herbal teas to choose from. If there is anything you might need, press the Butler button for assistance.

Raffles Singapore bathroom

Bathroom, Raffles style

Old world charm bathroom with (Chapter Fifty) green retro tiles, shutters, marble floors, a corner bath and separate walk-in shower.
Happy to find two wash basins, need some space to display tubes and jars. “Do you know which is for what?” “Yes, I do. Blindfolded, if I have to”.
Soft and plush terry robes, with the fan palm‘s hotel logo of course and more amenities than you could wish for. Created for Raffles by Fragonard.

Raffles breakfast Tiffin room

Breakfast at the Raffles …

… means breakfast temptation. Fusion – there she is again – pur sang. From bento box to Birchler muesli and from steamed dumplings to caprese salad, East meets West. Not to mention the extensive tropical fruit buffet.
More choices on the à la carte menu. Whatever you fancy for breakfast, it is listed. An egg-white omelette with spinach, please.
The large Tiffin dining room with high ceilings, teak fans and white marble floors is a perfect start to plan the rest of the Singaporian day.

raffles singapore leslie dunker

Raffles Hotel historical tour

Do take a tour with the Resident Historian mr. Leslie Danker (77) who works for the hotel over 44 years. He shares his fascinating stories on many personalities and historical figures of the Raffles’ past and presence.
A huge 10-bedroom bungalow overlooking the sea transforms into a statement hotel building. We’re talking 1899 and it is also the first building in Singapore to have electric lights and fans. Modernity at it’s best.
I loved the hall of fame, with pictures of international Royals and rich ‘n famous including regular guests Karl Lagerfeld and Christian Louboutin. Not together, I presume.

“your [Dutch] Prime Minister stayed with us last week, he is as tall as John Wayne”.
__ Leslie Danker

Oh, and do ask Leslie about the escaped tiger and the billiard room…

Tiffin Raffles Indian curry buffet

Curry time at Tiffin’s

One of the go-to places for hotel guests and locals alike is the daily Indian Curry Buffet, also in the Tiffin Room (breakfast).
A hot favourite. I wouldn’t normally go for a buffet meal except for breakfast but these North Indian curry specialties are certainly worth the exemption.
First round to taste a bit of all on display – including vegetarian curries – and then go back for round two with the best of the best. Third round is for desserts.
Tiffin translates into ‘a light mid-day meal’. Enjoying it with curry on Sunday was an essential aspect of colonial life in the early 20th century, served here since 1899.
Of course there’s also the famous Long Bar with Singapore Slings and peanut shells on the floor. I did pop in for 5 seconds but too  busy for my taste.

Raffles Amrita Spa singapore
The Spa

The in house Amrita Spa (there is another one in the Raffles Shopping Arcade) is on level 3, next to the secluded rooftop pool area and fitness room.
I enjoyed an aromatherapy massage. After selecting my personalized botanical oil, lavender and rosemary for deep relaxation, I surrendered to the skilled hands of Josephine.
Before the treatment I stayed briefly in the steam room and after I relaxed some more at the outside lounge area with fresh, strong ginger tea.
Ready to join mr. B. at the pool with renewed energy.
The Amrita Spa is only open for hotel guests and they sell Coola organic suncare, love that brand.

Raffles Singapore logo

As I mentioned in the beginning, this timeless chic hotel will get an upgrade soon to connect 19th charm with 21st century state of the art technology. Another major phase restoration – they had a view since 1899 –  is due next year to adapt to the changing needs of modern travellers.
Parts of the hotel will be closed but guests are still very welcome untill December, 2017. After that the complete hotel will be closed for 6 months to have a grand re-opening in Summer 2018.

What doesn’t need any restoration is the genuine service of the staff, they count for half the Raffles ambiance. Where else do you have a line-up of staff (manager, butler, doorman, receptionist, porter) seeing you off from the doorsteps? The best of both worlds. That’s what I call heritage.

Raffles Singapore Karin Barnhoorn

disclaimer
This stay in Raffles was partly sponsored on behalf of Chapter Fifty and partly private travel. I only accept items or collaborations that answer positive to the question: “would I have purchase this myself?”. I will not promote anything that I would not wear, eat, sleep or see myself.  Authenticity is very important to me. Words, photos and opinions are my own.

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3 Comments

  • Reply Annelies Reugebrink 10 December 2016 at 14:10

    Dear Karin,
    I just loved reading about the true HERITAGE description of Raffles in Singapore,and you look absolutely stylish on the front porch picture!Enjoy your birthday trip through exciting Asia with Mister B!
    X Annelies

    • Reply Karin B. 11 December 2016 at 16:33

      Muite obrigadinha!
      Singapore is the perfect 3 day start for any Asian destination, very fusion.
      East meets West and so clean!
      X Karin

  • Reply Golf shortbreak to Madeira & Porto Santo islands - Chapter FiftyChapter Fifty 15 October 2017 at 17:08

    […] Since we were only in Porto Santo for a golfing day, I don’t know about hotels on this cute little island. However, after golf we had drinks on the beach at Porto Santo Hotel, the first hotel on the island built in the 60’s. Next time I intend to stay two nights – add beachtime to golf – at this friendly beach side place. On Madeira Island there are two locations for classic secluded luxury. How I love old world charm. […]

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