See you at Raffles!

Singapore Sling, the romantic signature drink of the Long Bar, at Raffles Hotel in Singapore.
Photo © Steven Grindrod, JE Nilsson and Cheryl M. Cordeiro-Nilsson for CMC 2010

The Raffles Hotel was established in the Late 19th century and rapidly became a meeting place for the rich adventure seeking class of western men of leisure, British colonial officers and businessmen seeking fame and fortune in the Far East, and to whom “See you at Raffles!” became the signature parting words.

To the general public, Raffles Hotel became famous through literature. Those who could not afford to travel but stayed home, read and dreamt, were swept away by the romantic writings of the greatest authors of their time, the most influential of which was probably Somerset Maugham who actually lived at the hotel and wrote some of his stores in the Palm Court.

In 1987 its importance was recognized by the Singapore authorities by naming it a National Monument, not a small thing in a city where anything older than last year could suddenly be torn down and replaced by something more modern.

Although it started out as something much more modest, the ambience inside the Hotel brings back echoes of colonial splendour with its unique blend of tropical gardens and classical colonial grandeur.

Stories and myths build romance and there are many such surrounding the Raffles Hotel.

Many of Maughams short stories deal with the lives of mostly British colonists in the Far East, and are typically concerned with the emotional toll exacted on the colonists by their isolation. For example one story entitled “Rain”, which charts the moral disintegration of a missionary attempting to convert a Pacific Island prostitute. Maugham himself maintained that many of his stories presented themselves to him in what he heard during his travels, which made him leave behind a long string of angry former hosts. Which, is probably why he eventually found himself writing at a hotel, abuzz with even more rumours from all faraway outposts of the British Empire.

As its literary fame eventually faded away in a world dominated by digital social media, Raffles Hotel remains famous as the place where the Singapore Sling was invented by the bartender Ngiam Tong Boon sometimes during the first decades of the 20th century.

Comments are closed.

Legal Notice   |   Log in to graphic guideline