If you are in Asia and want to experience what it must have been like to live during the colonial years, then there are some architectural marvels where you can stay and do just that. In Hong Kong, it is the Peninsula Hotel and in Singapore it is without a doubt, the Raffles Hotel.
Contrary to popular belief, the Raffles was not established by the British, but by two Armenian brothers from Persia—Martin and Tigran Sarkies—in 1887. The hotel was later named after the British Statesman who founded the city-state, Sir Stamford Raffles (he also founded London Zoo). Designed by the architect Regent Alfred John Bidwell of Swan and Maclaren, the current main building of Raffles Hotel was completed in 1899. The name Raffles is associated with all things connected with Singapore.
Amidst the high-rise concrete jungle that modern Singapore is, the Raffles Hotel thankfully sticks out like a sore thumb and it is perhaps one of the key places where people can marvel at how great and powerful the British Empire really was back in the days. While the hand-operated punkhas (fans) may have been replaced with modern air-conditioning, the mahogany furniture, glandular ceilings and the grounds are still in tact.
No doubt, this is still the place to see and be seen at, especially for the elite and the A-listers. As I left the Raffles, I noticed that a new high-rise hotel was being built right in front of the main building. While the feeling of sadness conjured up, there was also hope in thinking that thankfully there is only one Raffles Hotel and no one can take away that brand identity from it.
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