Friday, August 4, 2017

Go Local :: Raffles Hotel Singapore's "A Last, Lingering Look at an Icon" Tour

On Monday night, Lil Pumpkin and I went down to Raffles Hotel Singapore to take "A Last, Lingering Look at an Icon" before it closes completely for restoration at the end of the year.

It was preview for a newly-launched guided tour by National Heritage Board {NHB} and Raffles Hotel Singapore. Held from Aug 1 to 12 daily, visitors can trace the footsteps of many VIPs that have entered the doors of the hotel that once faced the sea before the hotel starts Phase 2 of its restoration works on the main hotel building and Lobby, as well as a portion of the hotel suites.

Following that, Raffles Hotel Singapore will close for the final phase near the end of 2017 before a grand reopening in the second quarter of 2018.

{Raffles Hotel in present day}
I personally find it very important that Lil Pumpkin experiences and learns more about Singapore's colourful culture and heritage as much as she can.. I mean, living in a young country like Singapore that is constantly striving to progress and develop, things change very fast.

At the blink of an eye, places disappear, buildings get torn down, landscapes transform.. a lot of times, if we don't make an effort to go out and catch a glimpse or experience something for ourselves, what we have or see now will most likely be relegated to our history books in the future.

{Raffles Hotel in 1950s}
It was a real treat to enter and walk around Raffles Hotel Singapore and explore spaces that are rarely opened to the public...

While the public are free to roam the Raffles Hotel Shopping Arcade and its dining facilities like the Long Bar or Tiffin Room, inside the main building of the hotel and the Lobby are exclusive to hotel guests and their visitors.

Unless you've a reason to be there e.g. to stay, attend a wedding, meet someone who is a hotel guest, attend a tour etc., you won't have the privilege to enter at will and enjoy the ambiance, the service, the charm and the heritage of the hotel.

{Long Bar in late 1970s}
Opened in 1887, Raffles Singapore is one of the few remaining great 19th century hotels in the world. Till today, its architecture is perfectly preserved both inside and out, giving it an intoxicating blend of luxury, history and classic colonial design. Within its walls are 103 expansive suites, framed by polished teak verandas and white marble colonnades, clustered around lush tropical gardens.

In 1987, a hundred years after its founding, Raffles Hotel was gazetted as a National Monument and has undergone changes and additions to its original building over the years, as part of its upgrading.

We started off by visiting a recreation of the room where one of Raffles Hotel Singapore's famous guests - writer and Nobel Laureate, Rudyard Kipling, stayed in 1889.. just 2 years after the hotel opened.

The recreation is based on Kipling's recorded remarks of his stay in his travel log that he kept. It looked like a scene from when he just got out of bed, with fresh bread and coffee for breakfast, and a pot of curry from last night's dinner on his bedside table.

I was pretty surprised that the food props are all fresh, real food and Lil Pumpkin even commented that they smelt delicious haha...

In the adjoining room, we saw some of Kipling's works and some old photographs of the beach scenes he might have seen when he looked out of his room window as well, in case you didn't know, Raffles Hotel was originally a 10-room beach-front bungalow and the beach actually reached up to where the current South Beach Club {former SAF NCO clubhouse - where I first started to train for competitive swimming!!} is.

After that we stepped next door and learnt more about the history of Raffles Hotel, and its surrounding areas, through the crockery and food served at the Coronation of King George VI, and many others.

The elaborate menus of the events held at Raffles Hotel over the years offered a glimpse into the signature of these events.

One special dish mentioned was the "Turtle Soup" which is very different from the Asian version that we are so used to in Singapore.. but just as exotic and delicious apparently and was popular with the British royalty. It was made from a 100lb turtle and served during the Silver Jubilee dinner of King George V in 1935.

When you go for the tour, don't miss a replica of the late Lee Kuan Yew's wedding cake, minus the famous "Stikfas" {his glue company during WWII} logo sticker hehe. He had his wedding there on 30 Sep 1950

The second part of the tour was led by Mr Roslee, one of the hotel's resident historian who has worked there for the past 15 years.

You know a hotel has legit heritage when they have their own team of resident historians haha.

I really liked this part as we got to see the grand Sarkies Suite {named after the founders}, one of the hotel's presidential suites where even Prince William and his wife Duchess of Cambridge Kate Middleton stayed during their 2012 visit.

As we walked through, we were told that while the hotel's architecture and exterior will remain the same after the restoration due to its status as a National Monument, the interior and furniture would likely change.

For example, the handwoven Persian rugs and some of the antique furniture that we saw in the Sarkies Suite will no longer be present after the restoration..

These 2 weeks are the last time we would see and appreciate the interior of Raffles Hotel Singapore as it is now.

Upon hearing that, it really brought some pangs to my heart as I'm reminded once again that change is inevitable, and time stands still for no man...

After that we went to the Hall of Fame to see some of the many famous celebrities and personalities that the hotel has played host to - Queen Elizabeth II, George Lucas, Bill Clinton, Kofi Annan, Elizabeth Taylor, Karl Lagerfeld, just to name a few.. 

I'm glad that Lil Pumpkin was very engaged with the tour, listened to the guide and kept asking questions...

The tour might not be suitable for younger children though as space is limited, the group moves at a fast pace and most of the exhibits are not interactive and kids being kids.. well, it's hard to keep their tiny hands from trying to touch everything!  

"A Last, Lingering Look at an Icon" exhibition and tour is curated by the Preservation of Sites and Monuments in NHB and guided by its volunteers. Tickets are priced at S$12 and include a delectable kaya souvenir.

Unfortunately, even at the time of the preview, all the tours were booked out due to overwhelming response. I doubt that there will be additional tours added, but do visit Raffles Hotel Singapore website to keep up to dates with news on its restoration works, and grand opening in 2018.

I'm sure that there would be new and interesting tours then, which you definitely don't want to miss! See more photos from  "A Last, Lingering Look at an Icon" exhibition and tour in the video above or on my YouTube channel if it isn't playing well.

Have you seen Hasbro's FIRST ever animated digital series HANAZUKI Full of Treasures yet? ✨Available free on YouTube, the story revolves around an adorable Moonflower, Hanazuki, who discovers herself through her courageous adventures of saving the entire galaxy with the magical powers of her various moods. @lovelilpumpkin insisted on bringing out her new Little Dreamer plushie {one of the main characters in Hanazuki} out with us tonight haha.. She's also wearing the Hanazuki Moongleam Wearable wristband that lights up! You can attach the matching "treasures" {comes with 2, or buy blind packs to collect more} to make the wristband glow in the colour matching tt treasure! 💫 Very pretty and we can even connect it to the downloadable Hanazuki app via Bluetooth, and explore various light displays & in-app surprises 👍🏻 Saw online that there's many more cute Hanazuki toys available & I hope they bring them all in to SG soon! 💕🌸 #sakuraharuka #hanazuki #kidstoys @hasbrosingapore @hasbro
A post shared by Ai Sakura  (@aisakuraharuka) on
P.S. If you were wondering about the doll Lil Pumpkin was carrying around that night, it's from Hanazuki, a new anime series from Hasbro haha..

*Disclosure: Unless otherwise stated, images belong to Raffles Hotel Singapore. All opinions are my own.


Unknown said...

It's such an eye-opener seeing the grand dame from what you've written in the post. So much of our country's unique history within the walls of the hotel. Thanks for sharing!

Anonymous said...

Such interesting and rich history! Love the snippets of famous people recounts. The wedding of our late founder's wedding shot just melts my heart!Well said on the fast developmental Changes of sg.... thank for sharing this heartfelt nostalgic piece!

The Hooting Post said...

That's an informational and delightful walk down memory lane through the rich heritage of Raffles Hotel. Indeed, change is inevitable and what remains is our memory of the past. Glad little Pumpkin gets to appreciate this side of things :)

--andy-- said...

Had never venture through the corridor and the historical artefacts! i do not know of many hotel(or even museums ) with own historians!!


Susan said...

I was keen to join the tour for one last look at Raffles Hotel before restoration works start but alas, they are all fully booked. Nice that Lil Pumpkin had the opportunity to know more about this significant building which is part of our history.

An Apel a Day said...

They look so fancy. I love how they have history on their walls.

ChermSee said...

Awww.. Raffles Hotel is being restored?! I fell in love with the hotel when I attended a European wedding in year 2000 and vowed to hold my wedding there. Alas, our families wouldn't agree to having only 18 tables (21 tops), so we had to do it at the next best alternative I can think of - The Fullerton.

How cool is it that Rudyard Kipling lived there! Thank you for sharing so comprehensively what went down during the tour.

Lil pumpkin and you look great in those cheongsams!

Geraldine said...

Such an eye opening experience! I've never been inside so it's great to see it through your pictures :) I am saddened that many buildings in Singapore have to make way for modernization, some of these places hold a lot of memories.

Theresa Mahoney said...

I am glad you were able to take Little Pumpkin on a tour through that very beautiful hotel before then renovations begin. I am sure it's a memory she will treasure long after the updates have been completed.

Shub said...

What a heritage! Such class and so many rich moments this place must have witnessed. Great that you could visit it.

Shub from <a href = "> RainbowDiaries </a>

mail4rosey said...

Wow, what a place! I love that you're all about teaching your daughter the local culture, and hurrah for getting to see that Presidential Suite!