Keeping Up Appearances
I had no trouble entering the Raffles Hotel the first time I went there; the fellow who accompanied me was not so lucky. The Raffles Hotel, true to its reputation as one of the swankiest places in Southeast Asia, simply refused to allow my friend entry.
The hotel has a strict dress code, and if the doormen feel your attire is not up to the hotel's high standards, it's back to the street with you!
Picky doormen aside, the Raffles Hotel does an amazing job of living up to its amazing history. Guests who check into one of the hotel's 103 suites (for the record, every room in the Raffles is a suite) get the old British colonial official treatment.
Raffles Hotel's Suites
Every "resident" (as the hotel calls each guest) enjoys accommodations designed to be faithful to the late 19th century and its service ethic. This means period furniture, deep Oriental carpets laid over teak floors, monogrammed bedlinens, and bathroom towels bound in gold cord.
Each room comes with a separate sitting room, spacious verandah, and a large marble bathroom with separate shower and bath tub.
To complete the colonial experience, "residents" are assigned a personal valet to see to their every need. Your personal Jeeves will show you your room, make restaurant reservations, make your bed, take your items to be laundered or ironed, and whatever you can think of. You won't get an iron or an ironing board - the management is afraid of the fire hazard - no matter, you get a valet to press your clothes for you, anyway.
Dining with History - Raffles Hotel's Restaurants
The hotel's dining facilities are worth the sticker shock. The choices range from the formal Raffles Grill to Doc Cheng's Asian fusion cuisine to the 1920's-style Empire Cafe.
The food is competent, but nothing exceeding expectation - let's face it, history is the main attraction here, and you'll find it in the Long Bar, where the Singapore Sling was invented. The bar is a throwback to the days when the town had a rougher edge: the management encourages patrons to drop their peanut shells on the floor, the way Somerset Maugham and his contemporaries may have done in the early 20th century.
Another place redolent with history: the Writers' Bar, which fed and watered such famous inkslingers as Maugham, Rudyard Kipling, and Joseph Conrad. You're not very likely to come up with the next big bestseller while sinking into the bar's comfy overstuffed couches, but one can always hope.
Raffles Hotel's Other Amenities
The "class" in Raffles Hotel comes from its many opulent details. The doormen dress sharp, the facade is painted a gleaming white, and a wonderfully-restored old clock in the lobby tells the time. Every night, when the clock hits eight in the evening, the lobby's pianist strikes up an old Noel Coward tune.
The hotel surrounds itself in foliage, partly to curtain its guests from the busy urbanity that's grown up around the premises. If you need relief from Singapore's persistent humidity, a small but satisfactory swimming pool awaits at the rooftop. And if you want to be pampered to within an inch of your life, go up to the Amrita Spa at the third floor for some exclusive, guests-only treatment.