The Raffles Hotel is one of the iconic sights of Singapore – and 2012 marks an impressive anniversary – 125 years since the luxury hotel opened its doors for the first time in 1887. Here at Elegant Resorts we’re particularly impressed with the Raffles Hotel providing luxury accommodation and top-class service for 125 years – especially as 2012 also marks our 35th birthday! To celebrate this momentous anniversary for one of our best loved hotel partners, here are some of the juiciest stories from the Raffles Hotel’s past – and well as some plans for the hotel’s future!
In 1887, a ten bedroom colonial bungalow was opened and named The Raffles Hotel. It was considered one of the most modern buildings in Singapore at the time, and has been expanded, renovated and restored a number of times since opening. The current main building of the hotel was completed in 1899, and there are now 103 suites, as well as a ballroom, veranda, multiple restaurants, a shopping arcade and a spa.
When the main building was opened in 1899, the hotel’s design incorporated some luxury elements which would have never been seen before – including electric lights. When guests were welcomed to the opening of the new wing of the hotel, it’s likely that they would have seen the first electric lights in Singapore being turned on. The Raffles Hotel was also the first place in Singapore to incorporate fans and to bring a French chef to the kitchen – making it hugely contemporary for its time!
One of the most infamous stories from the history of the Raffles Hotel is that of the time that a tiger came for tea. In 1902, a wild tiger managed to find its way into the billiard room of the hotel, where it hid underneath one of the billiard tables. According to local legend, this wild animal was the last tiger to be shot in Singapore, after a local man from the nearby Raffles Institution was called upon to remove the tiger. After firing 5 shots into the darkened room, he managed to hit the tiger square between the eyes. (It’s worth noting that the hotel disputes that the animal was wholly wild, and instead maintains that the tiger has escaped from a nearby travelling circus – either way, it must have been a big surprise for the hotel guests enjoying afternoon tea!
The Raffles Hotel has also been a home-from-home from a number of famous writers – including some who were rather outspoken about their accommodation! Rudyard Kipling, author of The Jungle Book and the poem If is said to have said of the hotel “a place where the food is as excellent as the rooms are bad.” – damning criticism indeed! Other famous figures to have enjoyed the hotel over the years are Joseph Conrad, the author of Heart of Darkness, who visited numerous times, comic actor Charlie Chaplin and writer Somerset Maugham. In more recent years the hotel has played host to Michael Jackson, Queen Elizabeth II and the Duke and Duchess of Cambridge.
Another claim to fame for the hotel is that the Singapore Sling cocktail was invented here, after a particularly inventive guest requested the alcoholic concoction from Mr Ngiam TongBoon, the Hainanese-Chinese barman at the time. After tweaking the recipe, the Singapore Sling was created – mixing gin, cherry liquor and pineapple juice (plus a number of extra ingredients!) to create a particularly potent concoction which is still served at the hotel today!
2012 marks the 125th anniversary of the hotel first opening, and there are a number of plans to ensure that this celebration will become part of the hotel’s history. From the limited edition 125th Anniversary Billecart-Salmon Brut Réserve Champagne which will be served at the hotel to the Jaeger-LeCoultre special edition Reverso watches with alligator skin straps and celebratory engravings on the back – there’s never been a better time to visit the Raffles Hotel Singapore. To find out more about this wonderful Singapore hotel, take a look at the Elegant Resorts guide to the Raffles Hotel Singapore, or come back to the Elegant Resorts Community Section for an authentic Singapore Sling recipe, as used by the Raffles Hotel!Elegant Resorts Travel Experts