The name Raffles is an important one in the history of Singapore.
Stamford Raffles arrived in the early 19th Century and, within a few years, procured Singapore for the British East India Company. This was accomplished, as with many colonialist maneuvers during this era, through political intrigue and buyouts and bribes.
Young Stamford Raffles then set about developing the free trade port of Singapore.
So, his name is everywhere… Raffles Avenue, Raffles Boulevard (where our hotel was located), Raffles potato chips (Nooooo!).
But there is no greater monument to Raffles’ legacy—and British colonialism in general—than the Raffles Hotel.
It is a grand old hotel—white on the outside and very white on the inside, if you take my meaning. There is even a Sikh doorman in traditional dress. Charming. The entire hotel is built around lovely open courtyards with attractively lit fountains. It has lovely dining rooms and an overpriced gift shop. Among the shop’s many treasures are t-shirts and posters featuring a fey English gent hoisting a hurricane glass.
The text says, “Where Else Should One Partake of a Singapore Sling than at its Birthplace, the Raffles Hotel?”
So what is a Singapore Sling? It is a combination of gin, Cherry Heering, Benedictine, fresh pineapple juice and Angostura bitters. It was created around 1915 by a bartender at the hotel’s Long Bar, where it is still served to this day. So naturally we had to be a part of this long tradition. We proceeded to the Long Bar (which is not very long) and ordered up two Slings. Now the Long Bar, despite its not-so-longness, is quite fabulous. They have those automated palm frond fans on the ceiling and complimentary peanuts everywhere. The peanut shells are simply thrown on the floor, so there is a two-inch hillock of shells at the base of every table in the place. So chic…so insouciant…
But back the Slings. They were delicious, and I don’t favor those sweet cocktails generally. Of course, the folks at the Raffles Hotel are no fools. How much is a Singapore Sling? Roughly $25 per drink.
TWENTY-FIVE UNITED STATES DOLLARS.
So we felt like tourists who had been decidedly and definitively taken, but we had been treated well and enjoyed a classic, if pricey, Singapore experience.
After our Slings, David and I headed out for one last hurrah—a ride on the Singapore Flyer, dubbed the world’s largest Giant Observation Wheel.
If you’ve ever been on or seen the London Eye, this is basically the same experience. Only the Singapore Flyer is preceded by about a half mile of crap-assed “World of Tomorrow” galleries meant to placate punters stuck in line.
And you get to share a pod with a Japanese family of six hundred children who are all desperately disappointed that the ride is not actually a thrill ride, but just a
That said, the half-hour ride affords some of the finest views of the city and is particularly dramatic at night.
Goodbye Singapore! Now onto Hawaii. Aloha!