1 April 2024 Susannah

Literary Hotels – Raffles

Raffles Hotel in Singapore

The fabulous Raffles Hotel in Singapore is a British-style luxury hotel that was named in honour of Sir Thomas Stamford Raffles, founder of modern Singapore. It actually began life as a beach house in 1830, privately owned. Then in the 1870s, it became Emerson’s Hotel, and in 1883 Raffles educational institution took it over as a boarding house. When the Emerson lease expired, American hoteliers, the Sarkies brothers, turned it into a ten-room hotel. It was soon a success, so extra buildings were added, including the two wings, and the number of guest rooms rose to seventy-five. A new main building was constructed, and there were further additions over the years. It was the first hotel in the region to have electric lights. But the Sarkies went bankrupt and the hotel was taken over by a public company, Raffles Hotel Ltd. During WWII it was taken over by the Japanese. In 1987 Raffles was declared a National Monument.

The hotel has been popular with film producers. It was used in Tenko, appeared in Crazy Rich Asians, and Medal of Honour: Rising Sun.

It was in the Long Bar of Raffles that the ‘Singapore Sling’ cocktail was invented. This room was much loved by W. Somerset Maugham who was a frequent guest at Raffles. “Raffles stands for all the fables of the exotic East”, he stated, and his quote was later used on the hotel’s personalised matchboxes. Rudyard Kipling, Joseph Conrad, Noël Coward, Ernest Hemingway, Pablo Neruda, James Michener, André Malraux, and John le Carré also stayed there. Today the bar has created cocktails named for many of these authors. The hotel is the setting for Ryū Murakami’s novel Raffles Hotel, it appears in Malcolm Pryce’s detective novel The Corpse in the Garden of Perfect Brightness and Vicki Virtue set her mystery novel The Raffles Affair there too.

Today the famed hotel offers a Writer-in-Residence programme. Well, we can all dream …

Have you ever stayed – or even visited – Raffles in Singapore? Tell me your thoughts by leaving a comment here.

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Header image- Raffles Hotel in Singapore, https://www.booking.com/hotel/sg/raffles.en-gb.html

Comments (2)

  1. Melody Lord

    I haven’t stayed at the Raffles but I’ve drunk Singapore Slings at the Long Bar and had a delicately spiced lunch in the lovely Tiffin Room, while reading Herman Hesse’s ‘Singapore Dream’…

  2. Anne

    Yes! I had the opportunity of stay at Raffles Hotel a few years ago. It was definitely a ‘pinch me’ moment. I felt like I had been transported to another quite beautiful era. Everything – the architecture, the flowers, the service – was wonderful. An extra experience was the exhibition of photographs detailing the history of the Hotel.

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