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Raffles Hotel

Rough Guide to Singapore, 9th edition

WHEN SIR Stamford Raffles came ashore at the mouth of the Singapore River in 1818, he stepped into a tiger-infested jungle swamp that was home to maybe a thousand people. He saw, however, that the river mouth could be an excellent deep-water harbour, and so Singapore soon became a major trading port for the British East India Company.

Continued commercial success has brought the population of the 42-by-23-kilometre city-state to 5.5 million. Gone are all of the tigers, most of the swamp and much of the architectural record of the island’s human history from 1818 on. “The city’s old quarters have seen historic buildings and streets bulldozed to make way for shopping malls,” says the 9th edition of the Rough Guide to Singapore. “In the process, Singapore [has] acquired a largely deserved reputation for soullessness… This remains a country that neither knows how to sit still nor when it’s best to leave things well alone.”

High on the list of significant surviving bits is the luxury hotel opened in 1887, Raffles. “With its lofty halls, restaurants, bars and peaceful gardens, it was practically a byword for colonial indulgence,” says the guidebook. It was a favourite with literary types, among them Joseph Conrad, Rudyard Kipling and Somerset Maugham, who wrote several novels here. Today, “though utterly dwarfed by the modern metal-clad towers of the South Beach development opposite, Raffles Hotel has lost none of its legendary charm… The hotel’s Beach Road facade remains one of Singapore’s most arresting sights.”

Of the hotel’s several restaurants and bars, the guidebook recommends the Tiffin Room (“its wood panelling and floors restored to evoke its early appearance”) and the Long Bar, where the Singapore Sling was invented in 1915.

 

www.roughguides.com

 

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