Someone once said that when he travelled he did not want to feel at home. I am sure that he meant that he wanted to experience something new. I have that feeling when traveling in the United States, because of the homogenization.
Anyways, I thought about that saying each time I returned to Raffles after a foray into Singapore street life. Our suite is so pleasant, that I am pleased to return to an oasis of calm in which I feel very comfortable. This might not be home, but it is a suitable alternative.
The hotel offers so much variety, that we have taken several meals within its confines. There are long verandas and large gardens. One can enjoy the feel of the jungle, without the dangers, enhanced by soft lighting. The current weather is so pleasant, that the temperature is perfect for a stroll through the hotel grounds. I would not choose another hotel for a stay in Singapore...unless someone likes homogenized style so prevalent in the West. I enjoy the mixture of colonial, Aisan, and modern, plus the flawless, friendly service, which only Asians can provide. I cannot imagine why anyone would write a negative review about this hotel. Perhaps, Tripadvisor should permit hotels to write reviews about guests. I would like to comment a few which I have observed...
Yesterday, we got in the morning, had breakfast, and put in a full day of tourist duties. I congratulated myself on mastering jet lag. Once again, I was a bit stupid.
This morning, I awoke at ten past ten. Because it was too late for breakfast, I decided to wake up slowly, before getting up. Before I knew it, the time had reached twelve thirty. I stacked the pillows and thought about getting up....it was soon two thirty. I decided to get up.
We left the hotel by taxi for Orchard Road, Singapore’s high end shopping district. The taxi dropped us at the highest end, the ION. I have shopped at all the great shopping centers of the world, but have rarely seen such a selection of products on display as overwhelmed us here. Whoever has a bunch of money to burn could do worse than to travel to this mall. All the best products touted in the glossy ads for the leading brands were on sale, as well as plenty more. Bargains were not to be found, but variety and glitz for anyone seeking to impress the Jones...or anyone else. What surprised my most was the lack of Russian dialect attacking my ears, because this is the kind of excess they adore.
We had an excellent breakfast/lunch/afternoon tea (I have no idea what my body is thinking) at “tea” place called TWG. I have noticed several in Singapore. I had the best lasagna ever and my wife had high tea, with a desert to die for. The below photo does not do justice. It was an egg, made of eggshell-thin chocolate and filled with marscapone for the white and apricot jam for the yolk. The occasion was Easter week. The ice tea was from fresh tea, not from a large American or Swiss corporation. Trading companies of the past are alive and well. I was happy that I missed earlier meals, because I would not have experienced this place. We did not spend money at any of the over-priced shops, before we made our way outside to stroll down Orchard Street to the hotel...about five kilometers away.
One has a completely different sensory experience in Asia. Sitting at dinner in the hotel garden, evening breezes wafted contrasting fragrances past my nose: perfume from the next table, fried garlic from the outdoor grill, each meal, or incense from who-knows-where. At home, fragrances tend to be unified, with little variations. But, like everything in Asia, fragrances can change suddenly and frequently. This makes life more interesting, because even unpleasant odors do not linger and are quickly replaced.
I have been to Singapore several times, but first learned that there is a Red Light District. This surprised me, because I assumed that this place was ultra-conservative. After all, one can be arrested for spitting out chewing gun.
Anyways, we did not visit the Red Light District. We considered going to the local food market, but chose the more upscale Mariina Bay. There is shopping mall with all the tony brands, each shop trying to out do the other, a casino, which we did not visit, a hotel, which we do not need, and an outside plaza, which features a nightly light, water, and holograph show.
Dinner choice was difficult,because of the wide variety. We decided finally on a Chinese place with seafood. The Love-of-my-life wanted to try spicy crab, which is supposed to be a local speciality. Of course, there was no price on the menu, and market price is always an unpleasant surprise. But, we are on vacation, and one is in Singapore only once. The monster arrived, after suffering a surely painful death in enough chile sauce to feed a Chinese family for a month. The waitress took pity, when spotting my wife's shocked face, and cracked the messy shell. After that, she enjoyed the feast. I stuck with boring honey coated ribs, rice, and pan choi.
The water show was impressive. Holographic images were flashed on water spray over the harbor, with the city skyline in the background.
Today we played tourist.
I have been to Singapore many times on business, so have seen the airport, various hotels, office buildings, and a few restaurants. To get a flavor of the city, we took one of those double decker bus city tours. It's the best way to get a quick overview of any city. Given the size of Singapore, we saw most of what there is to see. It is a pleasant blend of old and new, Asian and colonial. They have done a good job of maintaining much of the old and not knocking everything down to make way for steel and glass towers.
Singapore is orderly, disciplined, and neat. One feels safe, while observing diverse cultures held together by a strict regime. It's a good place to visit,
After the tour, we landed at the courtyard bar. We sat outside on bar stools (cushioned high chairs) and enjoyed cocktails and dim sun. Everything tastes better in the genuine surroundings. Colonial flare is appealing...especially if one can flee to air conditioned comfort of a luxury hotel...which is where I am at the moment.
I am sitting in the hotel, where Somerset Maugham stayed and allegedly wrote, as did Rudyard Kipling. I have been to Singapore many times, but never stayed here. It is something I have wanted to do for some time. I am not disappointed, which can happen when one has an image in one’s mind of a place and harbors expectations. I have stayed at the Oriental in Bangkok, where Maugham also stayed, so wanted to try this one. I enjoy his short stories from the region.
I have stayed at luxury hotels around the world, so I know how to judge quality and what to compare. Each is good in its own way. This one has a distinct character, because of its history. That cannot be produced, no matter how much one pays. This one is special. The hotel, which was built over one hundred years ago, maintains the feeling of colonial times...but with air-conditioning and modern conveniences. I read some negative reviews on Tripadvisor, but cannot relate to anyone of those experiences. Until now, everything has been flawless.
The reception could not have been friendlier or easier. Our welcome drink was the best Singapore Sling I have ever tasted. I almost turned it down, because of previous bad experience and because of jet lag. Fortunately, my wife convinced me to have one. I could have had another...
The room is larger than I had expected and certainly much larger than the average hotel room (often called a “suite” but usually is just a room). This is a suite. One enters through a sitting room, proceeds to a large bedroom, and then finds a two-room bath at the rear. The ceiling is about three meters high with ventilators. Of course, there is air conditioning. There are two rattan arm chairs on the veranda, if one wants to sit in the garden. One has the feeling of being in a colonial mansion of the 19th century.
The pool is big enough (after all, we are in the middle of a city) and rather pleasant, if one disregards families with children. It is a matter of picking the right time. We had a gin and tonic, which one does in Asia in the afternoon.
We ate in the Asia restaurant, and I had excellent Singapore noodles. Service was just as one expects in Asia: friendly and efficient. Breakfast could not have been better. The dining room was opulent, the offer extensive, the quality excellent, and the service flawless.
Prior to writing novels, the author enjoyed a multifaceted career: from decorated combat aviator to advertising professional to global communications director of a major consumer brand. He has traveled the world and met sports, film and television stars, political leaders, and royalty. He graduated from Middlebury College, is married, lives in Germany, and has two grown children.