SINGAPORE'S famous Raffles Hotel has been designated a national monument.
When the Raffles first opened for business in September 1887, its 10 rooms quickly became an oasis of style and comfort. It had circulating fans, Southeast Asia's first electric lights and even a French chef. Later it became a somewhat seedy hostelry in an island nation that these days has little but scorn for anything old.
It is said that the Singapore Sling, that heady, gin-based concoction, was invented at the Raffles. When some friends of ours celebrated New Year's Eve at the hotel in 1986, its Singapore Slings seemed to have lost the fizzle. Or, if the original recipe was still followed, perhaps others had improved on it.
All around, construction of new hotels was going on. Most of them had 40 stories or more; the Raffles seemed hopelessly modest by comparison. To keep up with the times, it was later expanded and refurbished as a 160-unit suite hotel.
Whatever they did to the old Raffles, we hope they kept the white wicker furniture. It gave the hotel its Maughamnesque atmosphere.