Cosmopolitan, green and squeaky-clean, Singapore is one of the most kid-friendly spots in Asia. From its immaculate stroller-friendly sidewalks and surplus of family attractions to its English speaking locals, Singapore offers visitors an Asia that is safe, organised and easy to navigate in a superb tropical climate.
It’s also home to one of the world’s most celebrated hotels, Raffles Hotel.
Aleney de Winter and family head to Singapore on the eve of the 125th anniversary of the world-famous Raffles to lap up a little of its legendary luxury.
Standing in the elegant multi-storey lobby it’s easy to imagine what the Raffles must have been like back in the day, when the rich and famous soaked up both atmosphere and gin on the airy verandahs overlooking the (now reclaimed) seafront.
A time when the literary likes of Noël Coward, Rudyard Kipling and Somerset Maugham - who once described the Raffles as "the legendary symbol for all the fables of the Exotic East" - fuelled their creative juices with jungle juice at the Long Bar. “Where have you gone, Mama?” asks my perceptive son as I’m swept by the ghosts of patrons past to a Raffles of rickshaw rides, tea dances and tigers under the tables.
A combination of modern luxury and old-world gravitas, Raffles is calm and classy without a trace of stuffiness and children are most welcome.
From the splendidly moustachioed doorman (who high-fives Raff and even shares his secret stash of biscuits with him) and the lobby staff who enjoy a cuddle with Marlo, to the residents (this is the Raffles’ charming term for guests) who stop to say hello, our kids are made to feel very special as, indeed, are their parents.
We are escorted to our suite (the Raffles is an all-suite hotel) with its soaring ceiling, sitting room, marble bathroom, dark timber floors, oriental carpets and a pretty cot for our baby that isn’t out of place with the period furniture.
Modern comforts like wi-fi don’t hurt either but my favourite feature is the visceral service of our butler who kindly offers to organise toys and games for the kids, should we desire. At this moment we only desire tea, which we enjoy overlooking the cloister-like garden where our children play hide and seek along the colonnades and frolic in the Singapore sun. One could get used to this.
The kids, however, are more inclined to get used to soaking in the rooftop pool. I unwind in the jacuzzi while they joyfully drown their dad until, splashed out, we cave in to our inner tourist and head to the famed Long Bar for a Singapore Sling.
Sling slung, I decide the sticky pink concoction is not for me but Raff is mightily impressed with the sweet treat, though his, of course, is sans alcohol. He also loves the crunchy floor. Yes, crunchy!
It’s a Long Bar tradition to shell peanuts at the table, discarding their remains on the floor. I make a neat pile of shells on the table but, after our waiter brushes it to the floor, get in the swing of flinging them there myself. Marlo and Raff think it’s hilarious and soon start hurling peanuts all over the place as we duck for cover. I can’t help finding it a touch ironic that in a country where littering laws are so strict, its actively encouraged here.
The ultimate luxe Singaporean experience, the Raffles is a destination in itself. It has its own museum and opulent day spa and an arcade lined with ritzy shops. Not to mention 15 restaurants and bars serving sumptuous food - each happily catering to kids.
We consider high tea in the Tiffin Room or a champagne buffet in the Bar and Billiard Room but Raff twists our arms to visit the Raffles Creamery for a personalised ice-cream creation. Lovely as the icy treats are, we’re after a fine dining experience so decide to take advantage of the hotel’s superb babysitting service. While our little lovelies nosh on room service and watch cartoons, we enjoy the lunch of a lifetime at the hotel's fine dining room, Raffles Grill. I could go on and on about the epicurean adventure but suffice it to say it is exquisite, as is the entire Raffles experience for every member of this very satisfied family.
Her legendary literary lodgers may be long gone but the Raffles is one glorious Grand Dame who has her own stories to tell.
Beyond the Raffles there’s plenty of fun to be found in Singapore - here are our family faves: