Raffles Hotel ~ Singapore’s luminous grand dame

By Dian Hasan | December 10, 2009

Across Southeast Asia, in the bygone colonial days, each major city was defined by her grand hotel. These hotels – which really resembled palaces or opulent mansions, not only offered accommodation for the weary travelers who traveled from Europe in steamships, but also served as the social nucleus for the ruling elite, and all those power. In their heyday, they saw the splendor of many a magnificent balls, feasts, and their share of international celebrities of their era. Pomp and pageantry included.

Only a few remain today, saved from the wrecking ball, thanks to some forward-thinking conservationists who were convinced of their historical and architectural value. Yangon’s The Strand, Penang’s O & E, Surabaya’s Oranje (renamed Majapahit), and Singapore’s Raffles. Indeed a collection of exquisite gems from the Sarkies Brothers, hip hoteliers of their day who hailed from Armenia.

Singapore’s Raffles is one such place. Playing host to some past dignitaries that include the likes of Somerset Maugham, Queen Elizabeth II, Charlie Chaplin, Jean Harlow, Elizabeth Taylor, Rudyard Kipling, all the way to President George Bush, Michael Jackson, Black Eyed Peas and Beyoncé Knowles.

Later that afternoon I shifted to the Raffles Hotel, Singapore’s oldest hospitality option. The hotel was renamed in honor of Stamford Raffles, the British colonial founder of Singapore. The hotel has been in operation since 1887 and for anyone coming to Singapore on business or leisure, it’s a must-visit.

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