Great Ho­tels

The Star (St. Lucia) - - LOCAL - By Michael Walker

Iam sure you will agree when I say that Sin­ga­pore, along with its old, colo­nial­style lux­ury ho­tel ‘Raf­fles' - named af­ter the Bri­tish states­man Sir Thomas Stam­ford Raf­fles, the founder of Sin­ga­pore, the Lion City, Singa Pura - is not what it used to be. I had de­cided, the other day, as I was mak­ing my way through the Far East, to use the cou­ple of days I had free be­tween lec­ture obli­ga­tions to nip down to Sin­ga­pore to re­live a few mem­o­ries and check out their va­lid­ity. I was, of course, dis­ap­pointed but not ter­mi­nally so. Changes are made; things are dif­fer­ent; it's what you ex­pect.

It must be forty years since I first vis­ited Sin­ga­pore. I re­mem­ber I was on my way to In­done­sia, or per­haps I was on my way back, when I was asked to ad­dress an au­di­ence at the Univer­sity in Sin­ga­pore. They put me up at Raf­fles, the leg­endary ho­tel where many a ‘real' writer had stayed; I was, af­ter all, a mere writer of text­books though I liked to point out that I spend just as much time weigh­ing my words as any poet, and any­way, my books sold in the mil­lions, and theirs didn't.

In the old days, be­fore I set­tled down for good in Saint Lu­cia, I used to stay at ‘Raf­fles', the old Raf­fles, one of the most mem­o­rable ho­tels in the world. I re­mem­ber one even­ing sit­ting at the Long Bar – it must have been at least 90 feet long – alone, when I got chat­ting to a very pretty young lady I had never seen be­fore. It turned out that she was from a small place just a mile away from the vil­lage where I lived in Swe­den, half a world away; in­deed, we do live on a small planet set in a vast uni­verse.

I re­call too, more than a quar­ter of a cen­tury ago, ly­ing flat on my back on a wall one night, to­tally sober, the lights of the house all off, search­ing the uni­verse above and try­ing to iden­tify the stars and their con­stel­la­tions. There is a point to this rec­ol­lec­tion: One slight dis­ap­point­ment prof­fered in­ad­ver­tently by Raf­fles this time round was that I had for­got­ten that the Long Bar - where the na­tional cock­tail, the Sin­ga­pore Sling, was in­vented at some time in the dim and dis­tant past by bar­tender Ngiam Tong Boon - had been re­lo­cated decades ago to some­thing that re­sem­bled a shop­ping ar­cade. Som­er­set Maugham, Ernest Hem­ming­way, and all their great writ­ing col­leagues must be turn­ing in their graves at the des­e­cra­tion of this tem­ple to cre­ative ine­bri­a­tion; and any­way, pick­ing up girls in su­per­mar­kets is not my style!

Back to my vigil on the wall by my house in Saint Lu­cia! Did you know, by the way, that Auriga is a con­stel­la­tion in the North­ern Hemi­sphere, some 42 light years from the Earth, seem­ingly on the edge of The Milky Way? It is also known as the ‘Char­i­o­teer' and is easy to spot be­cause it con­tains the bright­est star in the heav­ens, the first mag­ni­tude star, Capella, and the su­per­giant eclips­ing bi­nary star named Ep­silon Auri­gae. The Sin­ga­pore Capella has, in­ci­den­tally, named its spa the ‘Auriga' if I re­call rightly.

Now why am I go­ing on about stars, you might ask. Well the thing is that I promised my­self that when I re­turn to Sin­ga­pore later this year I will stay at the Sin­ga­pore Capella ho­tel, a 112-room, 5-star ho­tel, on Sen­tosa Is­land just south of the main is­land that was re­cently awarded 6 stars by guests. A friend of mine was stay­ing there and I went over to pay a visit or two, and catch some pam­per­ing at the Spa.

Sin­ga­pore, as I am sure you all know, is not merely one is­land off the south­ern tip of Malaysia; it's a col­lec­tion of fif­teen or so is­lands, most of which are ver­i­ta­ble trop­i­cal par­adises. Sen­tosa is one of the larger is­lands with two 18-hole golf cour­ses and a (Uni­ver­sal Stu­dios, I be­lieve) theme park. Nat­u­rally, I suc­cumbed nei­ther to the tor­tures of the golf cour­ses, nor to the hor­rors of the theme park, but hang­ing out at the Capella was “just di­vine”, which did not sur­prise me in the least. I know of five ‘Capel­las' dot­ted around the world: there's one in Düs­sel­dorf, Ger­many, at least one in Mex­ico at Ix­tapa plus an­other com­ing soon at Riviera Maya, and amaz­ingly three in New Zealand. I was told by some­one in the know that there will soon be an­other Capella ho­tel in Bangkok (one of the most amaz­ing names in the world for a city, by the way, when you think about it, given the Thai cap­i­tal's rep­u­ta­tion for sex tourism), but there may be more.

I left Sin­ga­pore the fol­low­ing even­ing for Manila in the Philip­pines, about 1,500 miles away, and dur­ing the flight I was plagued by the nag­ging thought that I was miss­ing some­thing, and then sud­denly it hit me: We have our own, 5-star lux­ury 124-room Capella set apart far from the madding crowd to the north. As soon as I get back home, I have promised my­self “A Week­end Away at Marigot Bay” (sounds like a slo­gan) to ex­pe­ri­ence the same peace, tran­quil­ity, per­sonal ser­vice, pam­per­ing, and sheer lux­ury that I en­joyed at the Sen­tosa Capella, Sin­ga­pore. Dear Reader, check it out, ‘You know you de­serve it'.

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