What's it like staying in Singapore's oldest hotel?
I have a confession to make. I'm Singaporean, born and bred on this island-state, but I've never been past that grand lobby at Raffles Hotel. I'll normally wander in, much like most wide-eyed tourists, and just soak in the lush foliage in the outdoor gardens. I'll dine occasionally at Royal China (one of my favourite dim sum places), and dine even more occasionally at the stately Bar & Billiard Room, mostly when there's something to celebrate. The classic, iconic hotel and its 19th Century façade is on every list of "Singapore's must-dos", and knocking back a sweet Singapore Sling here is as high a priority for visitors as is visiting Gardens by the Bay.
But staying a night at Raffles Hotel is a completely different story. The hotel may be public-friendly — as observed by the number of random people wandering in just to snap a few photos — but past the strict "Hotel Guests Only" sign is a quiet, regal experience to remember. There's no gimmicky fanfare or boisterous crowds, only spacious walkways, period furnishings and airy, elegant suites that boast a rich colonial past. My Palm Court Suite was impeccably furnished and maintained — a king-sized bed one you'd want to sleep in for days, bathrooms adorned in marble and gold, and a tasteful living area ideal for inviting a couple of friends over for tea. I almost felt like I was living like a rich maharaja amidst modern-day technology like high-speed Wi-Fi and cable television. Talk about a cool time warp.
As my weekend stay ensued, I started to notice how flawless service was in this place. While the hotel industry is one rife with a great concierge and bellboys, nothing beats the passion and clockwork precision of the staff at Raffles Hotel. From the liveried Sikh doormen, to the super friendly restaurant staff at breakfast, to assistant front office manager Nazir, everyone that works at Raffles Hotel is proud of the hotel's colourful history and works to uphold its reputation. Make sure you book in a tour with one of their resident historians, because you'll never have that chance again (unless of course, you're a repeat guest). These walking encyclopaedias will weave you through parts of the hotel you'd never thought existed, including an impressive hall of fame photo wall, displaying illustrious pictures of the hotel's past. It's almost unbelievable that I was walking on the same floorboards as Charlie Chaplin, Prince William, Karl Lagerfeld, and Johnny Depp.
Another unique experience while staying at the Raffles Hotel is enjoying high tea in the comforts of your own room. Forget sharing a space with others at the Tiffin Room — that same tea set can be delivered to your chamber upon request. To highlight their service standards a bit more, my tea set was delivered promptly at my requested time, and the butler put it all together with deft hands — pressed linen, juices, your choice of tea (they take your order during check-in), warm scones, and a platter of pretty sandwiches, tarts, and desserts to make anyone's day. Turndown service was another superb delight. Used towels were swapped out, fluffy bathroom slippers were put out, and the bed looked even more inviting than when I first walked in. There was even a little poem series left on the bedspread, luring me in for a short read before sleeptime.
Raffles Hotel might be undergoing a three-part restoration at the moment, which began in February this year, but some of its rooms are still open to visitors till the end of the year, where it'll close completely before a grand reopening in the second quarter of 2018. My suggestion? Book in now for your next staycation, because it's probably the last time you'll get to view the hotel in its pre-restoration glory.
Book by 30 June and stay before 12 August to enjoy A Getaway from the Everyday from $499++, which comprises a one-night stay in one of their luxurious suites, a history tour, two Singapore Slings, afternoon tea for two in your suite, buffet breakfast for two at the Tiffin Room, and a late 3pm check-out. Only available to Singapore residents — email RoomReservations.Singapore@raffles.com