Sunday, 3 July 2011

A day at Raffles Hotel & Museum

From the moment after I visited to the Mint Museum of Toys, I keep walking to the next building called Raffles Hotel where SIr Stamford Raffles's statue built. It's been a long time since I went there in the year 1992 which I recalled and took a photo with my boyfriend (now my hubby) at the staircase. Memories brought back through the years, Raffles Hotel hasn't changed much and it's the same building which painted in white.
Historial hotel of Singapore
Built in the old French Renaissance style, Raffles Hotel is one of the most famous hotels in the world; it richly deserves this distinction. Royalty from Europe, Thailand, Japan, the Middle East and Malaya and writers like Rudyard Kiplingm Somerset, Maugham and Noel Coward and other distinguished personalities including film stars have some time or other occupied rooms in this Hotel.
During the battle of Singapore, the Hotel was overcrowded with European families who escaped from Malaya. Some of the most expensive silver wares were buried in the garden of the Hotel just before the British surrender.
It is known that Japan had surrendered some Japanese military officers in the Hotel committed suicide in true Japanese Samurai spirit and code.
Sir Thomas Stamford Raffles
A Short history of Raffles Hotel
Raffles Hotel is a living legend and legends have made Raffles one of the most famous hotels in the world. Raffles Hotel takes its name from Sir Stamford Raffles, the founder of Singapura, The Lion City.
Its history dates back to the early 1880s beginning in a very way as triffin-house within private residence. It was not until 1886 that Raffles Hotel actually came into being as one of a chain of hotels built by the Sarkies Brothers, 3 Armenian expert hoteliers who came to S'pore to seek fame and fortune. History of Raffles started in 1886 and 1986 was the centenary of Raffles that was 100th anniversary
The original building for the Hotel was a bungalow, situated at the corner of Beach Rd and Bras Basah Rd. It used to be the residence of a W.R. George.
In its early days, the Hotel has a fence along the frontage with the original entrance facing Bras Basah Rd.
In those days, Beach Rd was the main residential area--the houses standing well back from the road with the gardens in front. One of the Chinese name for the Beach Rd is still known as 'Twenty-house Street', deriving from a row of 20 elegant dwellings with large compounds belonging to the earliest straits merchants. Beyond the Beach Rd, one and a quarter miles after the last European residence, was a Malay Village where the Sultan of Johore and his followers lived and where pirates use to congregate.
Behind the Hotel, there used to be stables for gharries, conveyances that were used in those days. When the world despression hit Singapore in 1930, many hotels were forced to close but Raffles Hotel was able to hold its head above the water, maintain its repulation and retain its position as S'pore's leading hotel.
In 1941 when the WWII broke out in Malaya, S'pore was one of the worst cities to suffer regular bombing day and night. One one occasion, two bombs landed at the rear of the hotel, killing an Indian porter. The hotel management had a black-out for its large dance room and the orchestra continued to play nightly till midnight and the waiters at the hotel remained onduty until the last moment.
When the Japanese invaded S'pore, the lobby of Raffles Hotel was filled with refugees while most of the staff fled with their families for safety. S'pore surrendered on 15th Feb 1945, and between that year and 1945, high ranking Japanese Officers took over the hotel. It was then that the main entrance was shifted from the front of the building to the corner of the Palm Court (known as long bar and the Singapore Sling - the cocktail and for its dinners and ballroom).
After the liberation on 12th Sept 1945, Raffles Hotel became a hive of activity but in a very different way from that of the pre-war days. Instead of being a rendezous of a cosmopolitan and wealthy selection of people it gave temporary shelter to hundreds of ragged refugees rescued from internment camps in Java and other islands of the East Indies. In the year 1946,Raffles Hotel reopened her doors to the public again.
Today Raffles Hotel has 104 suites, distinctively and elegantly funished. The lofty ceiling and spaciousness of the rooms, two features rarely found in most modern hotel accommodation, are part of the old-world charm of Raffles Hotel and this attraction drew guests like Somerset Maugham to return again.
Raffles Hotel built in the French Renasissance style is an architectural rarity. It occupies an area of over 200,000 sq.ft set among tall, fanlike travellers palms and commands a panoramic view of a multi-racial city. An old waiter of the hotel fondly recollected a certain Dutch anthropologist who used to consume 8 to 10 bottles of gin for breakfast every morning. Then there is the legend of a 1st tiger being shot under the billiard table (Tiffin Room) of Raffles Hotel by Mr C.M. Philips, the headmaster of the Raffles Institution which was just across the road in 1912. In 1986, the legend roared back to life when Seta the tiger from the Chipperfield circus roamed the billiard room again. News of the tiger, was published in Straits Times on 11 Feb 1986.
Several personalities have stayed Raffles Hotel: Rober Kennedy, Elizabeth Tayor, Princess Soraya and many others. Films like Pretty Polly, Passion Flower and TV series Tenko, Tanamera and Hawaii Five-O were also filmed in this Hotel.

Marbled staircase and teak floor
A lofty 14 foot high ceilings, grand arches, teak and marbled floors are now home to a new generation of travellers.
Palm Garden
A large expense of greenary with rows of palms and beautiful landscaping, sets the tropical mood in the Palm garden (pic above). The gardens which once provided a lush setting for writers such as Somerset Maugham have blossomed to now cover more than a quarter of the entire property.
Palm Court
There is a Palm Court which has a beautiful pateo and had been photographed or filmed by almost every visitor. This patio was also selected as a background for the beautiful contestants to the title of Mss Universe 1987. One thing which I heard that there was a staircase designed by someone who specialized in air raid shelters.
Today Raffles Hotel stands as a historical landmark, a living monument to Sir Stamford Raffles' energy and imagination. It was declared that Raffles Hotel, a historical landmark, was gazetted under a Preservation Monuments Board on 14 Mar 1987. In 1988, the owners decided to invest $150 million in its restoration.

The Singapore River, you heard before, that was back in 1991, was not what it is today. It was smelly and surrounded by dilapidated warehouses.
I heard many stories that happened to the Raffles Hotel in the past which I gathered some informations from history of the past that described about this hotel where several personalities had encountered such incidents, was well informed to the old staff who worked through the years in this Hotel none other than Mr Roberto Pregarz (born in Trieste-Italy) who knows more about Raffles than anyone else, has written his own reminiscence of the enthralling years that preceded and stimulated its renovations in the early 1990's.
Actually, you all know that all well renowned restaurants thus forbid to bring pets like dogs or cats into the restaurants - The story went through the hotel's the most well-known restaurant was 'Elizabethan Grill' (established in 1953) 66 years after Raffles Hotel was offically opened in 1886. This restaurant was named in honour of Her Majesty, Queen Elizabeth II of England who was crowned in 1953 and there was a portrait of the Queen Elizabeth II hanged on the wall. Unfortunately, in the foreign land of the Far East, where the couple accompanied by a plump poodle were served with a lavish meal, and explained to the waiter in universal sign language, they wanted him to feed their pet as well. He nodded and beamed before taking the dog off in the direction of the kitchens. Thirty minutes later, the waiter returned, bearing on a large silver platter the delicately roasted pet on a bed of crispy noodles. Ten years later, suddenly the Elizabethan Grill, including the portrait, disappeared. The next day, a new restaurant opened 'The Epicurean Grill' and the menu, and the dishes were the same but the customers had vanished. One year later, The Epicurean Grill disappeared and the Elizabethan Grill reopened with the same menu and the same customers had returned! But the portrait had been changed with a name of another Elizabeth, a Tudor - daughter of Henry VIII and Anne Boleyn. Years later, the Lion of Judah with his tiny Chihuahua dog made an interim entrance to this restaurant. So the restaurant had its first imperial banquet in honour of his Imperial Majesty Haille Selassie by Chief Justice and Mrs Wee Chong Jin and Dr Goh Keng Swee. The Emperor's Chihuahua was the only privileged puppy, not only to enter the Elizabeth Grill but to have its meal next the fire place. One of the old waiters while serving the Emperor kicked the puppy accidentally. It yelled and the Emperor's bodyguards drew their guns. A few months later the Emperor was dethroned.
The next prominent personality to have banqueted at the same restaurant, was H.E. Pierre Trudeau, Prime Minister of Canada. He laughed when he was told the story about Selassie's pet (Chihuahua). Incidentally a few months later he too lost his job. And this restaurant was on going unexpectedly turned an fateful events when the Commonwealth Prime Ministers Conference in 1971, a few Heads of State were hosted together at this same restaurant.
There was a report from Business Times on 25 Feb 1988 stated that Raffles Hotel had to be closed and turned into a 'suites only' hotel for VIP Guests and "Heads of State". The legend of the Elizabethan Grill must go on for a remembrance...When the Hotel re-opened in 1991, the new owners decided not to take any chances and they renamed it the Raffles Grill instead of Elizabeth Grill.

Above - Raffles Hotel Museum
Wooden Rickshaw
As we walked along the corridor of level 2, there is a "Raffles Hotel Museum". Something caught my eyes which is unbelievable traditional 'wooden' rickshaw on display, dated back in centuries still there. When the Raffles Hotel opened its doors, the first guests were brought in on our rubber-tyred jinrickshaws. When the words misspelled as "gin rickshaw", it was thought that this was the kind of energy required to pull the heavy "ang mo" (white man). After the invasion of Malaya by the Japanese troops on bicycles, these warriors developed the "trishaw" by attraching a bicycle to the rickshaw. The most popular starting point for these tours became Raffles. The first tours went to Chinatown and Sago Lane - famous for its funeral parlours with all the related paraphernalia. Some of these tourists gave generous tips to the trishaw riders; those who did not were sent off with colourful descriptions of their close relatives in Chinese dialects. You could hear them half mile away because of their blaring "ghetto balster" sets. Riding a trishaw with this music was similar to riding on a gondola in Venice, only less romantic and more scary.

Furthermore, there are many photos which I have taken at Raffles Hotel during my trip. The legends, the stories, the events took at Raffles hotel that made this possible that appearing in the press somewhere around the world, but I prefer to make it short here.


  1. I remember the hotel as the most fascinating place in 1953 not the white interior it has now but very green and plenty of dark wood.

    1. Hi, Kristine
      Do you have an old photo of Raffles Hotel in 1950s? Appreciated if you could post it here. Thank you.