We didn’t know much about Singapore, but we’d certainly heard of the world-famous Raffles Hotel. We got out of bed and took a shower. Then we had some coffee, took a shower, had breakfast, took another shower and jumped into a taxi outside the apartment.
“The world-famous Raffles Hotel, please,” we said.
“Can you give me directions?” asked the taxi driver.
“No,” we replied confidently.
Had it been practical to take a shower in the cab on the way to Raffles we would have done so. But sadly it wasn’t possible. The cab finally pulled onto the crunchy gravel drive at the front of Raffles, and the door was held open for us by a bearded man in a turban and a smart white uniform. Raffles was declared a national monument in 1987, and the hotel is seen as the Jewel in the Crown of Singapore’s tourist industry. When it opened in 1887 it was nothing but a rather sombre-looking old bungalow known as the Beach House, but it’s now a splendid white wedding cake of a building.
Raffles has welcomed innumerable celebrities, including Rudyard Kipling, W. Somerset Maugham, Charlie Chaplin and even Michael Jackson. But it’s most famous guest was undoubtedly Noel Coward, who must surely have been thinking of Singapore when he wrote Mad Dogs and Englishmen Go Out in the Midday Sun.
Raffles’ latest pair of C-list celebrity visitors, Georgina and I, were shown into the Billiard Room, and we ordered Earl Grey tea and a tray full of cakes and sandwiches.
“Do you think they have showers here?” I whispered. “Ssshh!” hissed Georgina.
We pressed the record button on Roland. “I keep expecting to see Denholm Elliot come bumbling in,” I said “wearing a sweat-stained white linen suit and sipping a Singapore Sling.” “That’s it!” screamed Georgina. “That’s what we should be ordering. You can’t come to Raffles without having a Singapore Sling!”
The Singapore Sling was created in the Long Bar at Raffles at the turn of the 20th century by a Chinese bartender called Ngiam Tong Boon, and it was so exclusive they used to keep the recipe in a wall safe. It was originally designed as a woman’s drink, hence its rather attractive pink colour, but today it’s enjoyed by everyone – even a couple of oiks like myself and Georgina.
“Two Singapore Slings, please,” I said to the waiter.
“Make that three,” said a voice. It was our man in Singapore Lord Kibble.
“What’s in this cocktail?” I asked His Lordship, as Georgina and I sipped our Slings a few minutes later. “I have no idea,” he said. “But I shall find out for you.”
It turned out to be gin, Cherry Brandy, pineapple juice, lime juice, Cointreau, Benedictine, Grenadine and a dash of Angostura Bitters. The whole thing was garnished with a slice of pineapple and a cherry on the top.
“I’m not sure it needs the cherry,” I said. “Just neck it,” said Georgina.
As we left Raffles, Lord Kibble took a photograph of us standing either side of the smart uniformed doorman, and then we jumped into another cab and headed for the Botanical Gardens.
“The world-famous Botanical Gardens, please” we said to the driver.
“Where’s that?” he said.