After 8 long months with no travel we finally cracked and took a staycation last month. Not something we’d normally indulge in but as we can’t take to the skies or even sail away on a boat, this was our only option this summer. We’d homeschooled our two kids, whilst working and also covered eight long weeks of school summer holidays. So we were way overdue a ‘sanity break’, oh sorry I mean holiday.
We’re lucky enough to ‘live on holiday’ as my friend’s daughter says; we can nip down to the pool for a dip or sunbathe and we’re fortunate to overlook the ocean from our living room. But we were craving that change of scenery, which a holiday gives and as my friend Lauren says… a chance to look forward to coming home.
We’re spoilt for choice in Singapore for staycations locations, but we fancied something on the main island and close to the city centre, call it a city-break. I’d heard that the iconic Raffles Hotel was open again after its lengthy refurbishment and was offering some really good rates for those staying more than one night. I’d also read good reports from other expats who’d already been and stayed. What an opportunity to stay in this iconic hotel with no other tourists, plus they always do the best Singapore Slings.
So with our minds (and hearts) set we booked two nights in town at Raffles, Singapore. Before we even arrived we’d heard back that we’d been upgraded to a suite and that breakfast would be included. We were off to a good start.
The morning of our arrival was a bit rushed as I coincidently had my driving theory test (which I passed and I’m now the proud owner of a Singapore driving licence, whoop). We arrived just before lunch to a very warm welcome, despite everyone donning a face-mask. We’ve found during these strange times that people kind of give an extra big eye squint instead, to make you feel welcome.
Due to Covid-19 the traditional reception booking-in process is gone, instead we were seated in the grand lobby and instructed to relax whilst we waited to be escorted to our room. Same for checkout, the bill was sent to our room the morning of departure for us to check and we just left our keys in the room. It makes you wonder why checkout/in always had to be so arduous before. Also now every time you walk into Raffles Hotel you need to check in with the government contact tracing app and pass this temperature scanner pictured below, which was the cause of much amusement to my kids.
The Suites at Raffles Singapore
Our room was in the wing closest to Beach Road and just a convenient, short stroll across the lawn to the main lobby. We stayed in room 101, the finish of the refurb is impeccable. I was bowled over by the size of the suite; a generous ‘lounge’ area with sofa and separate table, the bedroom was big enough to cartwheel in, (trust me my daughter can vouch for this). The bathroom is a timeless classic with the most amazing hot, powerful shower, also kitted out with his and her sinks and so much beautiful marble. One of my favourite touches was the bar and fridge which was crafted to look like an authentic leather suitcase.
Tip: The only thing I’d do differently next time is request a 2nd floor room (top floor), as due to the building being so old we could hear all the footsteps from above, even at 2am.
The Food at Raffles Singapore
Ahh the food, I really don’t know where to start as it was all so delicious. I’ll start with our first meal… a curry at The Tiffin Room. We arrived at lunchtime and we didn’t really get a chance to fully take everything in and make an informed decision on where to eat lunch. So, we went with our noses and picked The Tiffin Room which is situated just off the main hotel lobby. This beautiful restaurant is decorated with 100s of old tiffin lunch boxes.
As per the rest of the hotel the service here was great, big smiles, nothing too much trouble… less spicy dahl for the kids, no garlic for me, no chilli for the husband. The kids discovered they love mango lassi drinks here, it makes me so happy when they’re risk takers and try new things. We all loved it so much we booked again for dinner the next night.
After all the exploring and excitement of the first day, we ordered room service for dinner and shared a bottle of wine (just us, not the kids). Another delicious meal, a Japanese style tuna dish.
The other meal I want to rave about is the ‘Raffles Afternoon Tea’ in the main lobby. Being British we’re quite fond of a crustless sandwich, scones (with jam and cream) and a big pot of tea, so we couldn’t miss this opportunity. We booked three afternoon tea sets between the four of us and mine was gluten free. I had a pot of fresh mint tea and a glass of bubbly to wash it down with. The kids especially were blown away with all the cakes they were allowed to eat and I was super appreciative that they’d even made me some gluten free scones, yum. This is definitely something we’ll do again.
Tip: Book your afternoon tea before you go as it’s super busy and we almost didn’t get in.
What to do at Raffles Singapore
So you’ve checked in, unpacked your bags into the massive oversized wardrobes, found a spot in the bathroom for your toothbrush, played with the iPad remote for the blinds and tried on the plush free slippers, now what?
Well, as it’s Covid-time the pool is still open, but with a booking system. You get about two hours in each slot, which you pre-book before you arrive. It can rain at a moment’s notice in Singapore so it really is pot luck if you timed your slots right. Luckily we were only rained off once. I would certainly head up and make full use of the roof top pool, it feels like a little oasis of calm in the middle of the city. Also I don’t think it was a chlorine pool, more like salt water and was a great temperature.
They also offer a free historic tour of the hotel. Again, due to Covid-19 we didn’t get into this due to the limited numbers but we’ve been invited to go back again and take the tour at another time. I guess that’s the beauty of going on holiday only 20mins from your home, you can hop back and do the bits you missed.
With our room we were given some dollars to spend in the gift shop, a typical carrot to get you to spend more. But we went along and spent a good amount of time walking around. Shopping is intertwined with historic information and artefacts from the hotel. We, of course, picked up a bag of monkey nuts branded with ‘Raffles Long Bar’.
At the moment the iconic Long Bar is shut, guessing it’s hard to keep the floor clean and Covid friendly when it’s covered in monkey nuts. But we’ve been a few times before, so this didn’t worry us and we enjoyed our Singapore Slings in the main lobby instead. The kids can join in too as they do a non-alcoholic Sling.
The hotel is in such a great location that you’re only a short walk from many good Singapore attractions or even more with a short taxi ride. We opted to walk too, and spend the afternoon at one of our family favourites, the Singapore National Gallery, which is just past the beautiful cathedral. The kids love the Keppel Centre floor as there are always great crafts for them to get involved in. This time we did family origami and made foxes.
If you fancy a bit of shopping there is a great mall just over the road from Raffles, with tons of restaurants in the basement level. A funny story is that when we first came to Singapore for our ‘looksie’ we stayed at the Fairmont Hotel (which is opposite Raffles). We spent ages each day searching for places to eat, walking all the way up to Suntec City in the heat, to go to Din Tai Fung. Then on our last night we discovered that we’d been staying above a mall and had so many restaurants and shops at our fingertips, even a Din Tai Fung, haha – this is typical Singapore.
Tip: Take advantage of the stationery in the room and write your friends and family a letter. My mum loved the letter we sent her with one of our origami foxes in it.
I’ve already recommended this Raffles Staycation to so many friends. Some can’t get in as they’re fully booked through most of October. If you’re looking for luxury with friendly service then treat yourself to a few nights here. You’ll leave feeling so refreshed. We have already booked to go back to the Tiffin Room for my birthday dinner and if the world continues to turn in this strange way for a while longer, we’ll certainly consider treating ourselves to another stay.
Tip: For months I’d saved a book to read whilst we were at Raffles… The Pearl of Penang, by Clare Flynn. It starts off in Penang, goes through Singapore (even Raffles gets a mention), then to Perth and finishes in Surrey near to where we lived before we came to Singapore. Such a good read, I finished it during our stay, came home and devoured the sequel in days too. I’ve read quite a few more good books since I wrote 9 Books to Transport you Around the World from the Comfort of your Sofa, I’ll have do another round-up soon.