Some places are so thoroughly steeped in style and history that a filmic sense of glamour descends upon you, simply by walking through the door. The Raffles Hotel in Singapore is just one such place. When the hotel first opened on the 1st December 1887, it was a 10 room hotel, which in its first few years played host to many a celebrity of the time, including the father of many childhood imaginings, Rudyard Kipling.
I don’t wish this post to become one great big history lesson, but to appreciate the beauty of Raffles and understand its origins, will tell you just why I was so awestruck by my moment here…. even with two misbehaving children in tow.
The day we wandered into Raffles was Chinese New Years Eve. Serenely quiet and far less peopled than I imagine it would be otherwise. The air was heavy with anticipated rain, creating a feeling of places not unlike the tales of Kipling himself. The sound of each foot fall on the terracotta tiles was tempered by rustling palm fronds and the curious squeaks of small coloured birds. Coming to a stop in a small courtyard I stood, craning my neck upwards to take in the deep green of the glistening leaves; echoed with a shock on the balastruding of the balconies.
After taking in the white washed twists and turns of the open corridors, we came to the beautifully arched door ways, behind which dined some very lucky patrons enjoying that afternoon’s High Tea. I’ve always wanted to ‘do’ a High Tea at Raffles, but my over tired companions made that a very unwise choice. And so we moved on, stopping to take photographs at the fountain in the Palm Court (and stopping some very un-decorous stripping from my small enthusiastic bathers).
As the skies gave in and the rain poured down, we retreated to the elegant cigar bar. Beautifully situated overlooking the Palm Coutryard, and filled with the warm glow of lamplight, it was at once soothing and inviting.
There was not a soul in the bar, just us as we stood there seeking shelter from the rain, planning how best to entertain the children and get what we wanted too. Sometimes this is achieved by incentives, sometimes by a little healthy ‘motivation’. This afternoon’s motivation came in the form of Raffles iconic uniformed guard, who with the right back story, become a figure of authority over naughty children. Storybook perfection.
Although I’d had to forego the delights of High Tea, I had one other Raffles fantasy that was in reach of being fulfilled. And so, with a smile we headed off down Cad’s Alley.
The Long Bar is indeed the original home of the Singapore Sling. Created by bar tender Ngiam Tong Boon some time before 1910. (Aside: I do believe this mans portrait should sit upon the liquor cabinet of every woman’s home). Taking a circuitous route to reach the bar, we entered by the back door, and I’m so glad we did or I would have missed this gem. Hidden on a wall away from the bustle of the bar area, was this gem of illustrative work; the Maskee Sketchbook.
Forgive the barrage of images there, but I was just so taken by this work. Created circa 1939 by Schiff, this series of original images are all coloured by hand. I don’t know if this piece is the original, but there is a very limited number of copies in existence, each hand coloured, hand signed and owned by a lucky few. Capturing a Shanghai at the height of its glorious, decadent deco moment; Schiff’s work speaks volumes with the smallest stroke.
Ordinarily I don’t bring my children to bars, but when at Raffles Long Bar, one must make an exception. And by a simple employing of tradition, I was able to enjoy a far more relaxing afternoon that I had anticipated.
The floor was a carpet of peanut shells. And in keeping with the custom, the children set about eagerly adding to the effect. As for me, I had a date with that ruby hued drink of legend; the Singapore Sling.
And that, my friends, is how we concluded our little adventure at Raffles; with a cherry on top.
Blue winged bust top – Miss Hussy Clothing
Khaki Linen Culottes – unlabelled find from Far East Plaza
Sparkly leopard print hair bow – Chameleon
Lip colour – MAC Russian Red