The Raffles Touch
Legendary service since 1887.
Raffles Hotels & Resorts offer tailored experiences and impeccable, intuitive service in cultured surroundings. Every Raffles property is a distinctive landmark – an oasis for the well- traveled, a timeless setting for grand celebrations, and a meeting place for travel connoisseurs and local luminaries alike.
Raffles Makati sets the standard for contemporary luxury in the Philippines’ leading business center. Located in Makati City, the hotel has just 32 suites starting from a generous 60 square meters, with floorto- ceiling windows, hand- tufted carpets, marble bathrooms, and butler service included. Upscale brasserie Mirèio puts the spotlight on French Mediterranean cuisine, while Writers Bar and Long Bar nod to their corresponding venues at the Singapore flagship. The property also hosts a trove of 1,800 Filipino artworks, with special tours led by the in- house art concierge.
In Phnom Penh, Cambodia, Raffles Hotel Le Royal occupies a carefully restored French- colonial structure from 1929. Guests staying in the heritage building and suites can enjoy 24- hour butler service, and Raffles Spa stands out for the traditional Khmer massage. Longtime drinking institution Elephant Bar is a must- visit for its afternoon tea service and Femme Fatale, the signature cocktail created for Jacqueline Kennedy during her 1967 visit. French classics and original recipes from Cambodia’s Royal Palace are served at Restaurant Le Royal.
Just a 15- minute drive from the temples of Angkor and Siem Reap International Airport, Raffles Grand Hotel d’Angkor is set in six hectares of manicured grounds directly opposite the Royal Palace. Originally opened in 1932 as The Grand Hotel, the property boasts one of the largest swimming pools in Cambodia, authentic royal Khmer cuisine, and one of Siem Reap’s best dinnertheaters. Unobtrusive butlers cater to your every whim, and a sensitive renovation has retained the hotel’s 1930s charm – alongside its original timber elevator – while equipping guest quarters with modern comforts.
In early 2019, the brand will be making its Maldivian debut with Raffles Maldives Meradhoo. Situated on the Gaafu Alifu atoll and accessed via a 15- minute speedboat ride after a 55- minute flight from Male Airport, its 22 island villas and 16 ocean villas are a traveling couple’s dream. All come with private pools and 24- hour butler service. The resort also has three restaurants, two scenic cocktail bars, and a range of other facilities such as an overwater spa and gym, plus a PADI- certified dive center to make the most of the underwater wonders nearby. For more information, visit raffles.com
and curled up in a bulbous heap.) The Homestead itself was constructed in 1856 and has been handsomely restored by Wild Bush Luxury, which bought Arkaba in 2009. While much of its original character has been preserved—flagstone flooring, corrugated-iron roofs, pressedmetal ceilings—the building now features comfortable furnishings and all the mod cons, with the exception of TVs and Wi-Fi. There’s a library, a lounge with comfy armchairs plus a help-yourself fridge stocked with wine, and the swimming pool, which has a partially shaded canopy. Dinners are served alfresco on a covered veranda with gorgeous views of the sun sinking over the hills. Indeed, the food here, prepared by Melburnian chef Matt Collins, is a major highlight, with dishes like pan-fried scallops and a toothsome tortellini of butternut squash and goat’s cheese appearing on the seasonal menu.
While it’s blissful to arrive, switch off, and digitally detox for a day or two, it would be rather missing the point not to get out and explore your surroundings, which you can do by vehicle or on foot. One afternoon we drove out to an old stone shearing shed where history oozed through the brick and wood and where, a century ago, work- ers carved their names around the doorframe. I could easily imagine the heat, sweat, swearing, smell, and noise at shearing time. A bank of vintage electric clippers dangled forlornly from a wall; the cobwebbed diesel traction engine that once powered them sat rusting close by.
Then came an overnight hike. Led by a guide named Darlene, we set out on a 30-kilometer trek that took in one of Arkaba’s two campsites. The walking itself was not too arduous, but the heat took its toll as our little group tramped up and down ridges flecked green, brown, and orange. We crunched along riverbeds on carpets of eucalyptus leaves and stopped frequently to inspect plants and trees, emus and kangaroos. Originally from New Zealand, Darlene also told us about the Europeans’ rather disastrous impact on the landscape, which is only now being corrected. White settlers severely overgrazed the parched land, introducing way more sheep per hectare than the environment could possibly support. They also brought with them invasive plants, goats, cats, foxes, and rabbits, all of which wreaked havoc on the fragile ecosystem. It’s thought that in the last 200 years, at least 22 mammal species have become locally extinct in the Flinders Ranges, including brush-tailed possums, quolls, and rabbit-eared bandicoots.
Wild Bush Luxury has made restoring the original biodiversity of the area an integral part of Arkaba’s DNA; over 3,000 goats have been removed from the property, as have 350 feral cats, while rabbit warrens have been dug up with bulldozers. “Pest plant” programs have been developed to make way for native plants such as the narrow-leafed emu bush and Oswald’s wattle. From next April, a levy of two percent on all stays at Arkaba will go directly to ongoing
As we hiked along under the South Australian sun, I became something of a tree obsessive. River red gums, with their scabby, flaking bark, were my favorite. Highlighted against a cloudless sky, each seemed to have its own personality; I imagined them as grumpy old men grousing about the state of the world today. Flowers were rare, so the shocking-pink blooms of a bindweed stood out and demanded a sniff. I was also fascinated by the fierce-looking meat ants that swarmed into attack mode when we stepped too close to their underground colony. Less welcome were the flies that tried to suck the moisture from the corner of our eyes; they were the cause of constant arm flapping, not to mention increasing levels of swearing.
Having traversed Moralana Hill, Madge’s Gully, and the Red Ranges, we finally arrived, somewhat dusty, at our campsite. In keeping with Arkaba’s eco ethos, the setup here was “luxury rustic.” Bush showers—essentially buckets filled with water warmed over the campfire—were on hand for those wanting to wash up, while beds came in the form of swag rolls arranged on individual wooden platforms. After a simple but nourishing dinner of chicken-and-potato salad and chocolate-macadamia bars, we crawled into our swags and fell asleep under a sky filled with a billion twinkling stars.
The next morning, we were all awake with our cameras for dawn: the first creeping rays of light tiptoeing over Mount Aleck blanketed the hills in a rich honeycomb hue. We ate a hearty breakfast before setting off for Arkaba. Tiny chestnut-crowned babblers flitted about; there were galahs and Australian ravens too, the latter’s call sounding rather like a child’s talking doll being strangled. We caught whiffs of curry bush and bitter saltbush, learning more about how plants such as these are supremely adapted to the harsh environment.
After a picnic lunch, we walked on for a few hours and then, dropping down from a hilltop studded with eucalyptus trees, we were back at the Homestead. I almost sprinted toward the wine fridge like it was a long-lost friend.
Resting by the pool later, I watched a group of kangaroos nibble grass in the front paddock. They kept their backs to my camera, taunting me. Next time, I decided, I’ll save my photo ops for koalas.
Inside the bedroom of Raffles Makati’s Presidential Suite.
A Beach Villa at Raffles Maldives Meradhoo.
Above: Taking in the scenery of the Flinders Ranges. Below: Fireside conversation at one of Arkaba’s wilderness camps, where guests sleep under the stars.