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Monday, June 11, 2007

Chijmes and Raffles Hotel, Singapore


The Chijmes ('chimes') and the Raffles Hotel are two popular landmarks in Singapore. We visited both places to learn more about its history over the course of the walking curiosity of my brother and I around Singapore on the second day of our 5 day visit.

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Chijmes was first used as a Catholic convent called as the Convent of the Holy Infant Jesus (CHIJ). Four French nuns who arrived in Singapore in 1852 used the complex's Caldwell House which was constructed in 1840, to set up the Catholic convent school in 1854. The vast complex presents a mixture of Neoclassical and Gothic style brought upon by the distinct features of the Caldwell House, which was designed by Gregory Coleman - an Irish Architect who designed many buildings in Singapore in the aftermath of its founding by Sir Stamford Raffles in 1819, and the Gothic-themed chapel designed by Father Charles Benedict Nain which was completed in 1904.

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The convent ceased operation and held its last religious service in 1983. The place was abandoned and consecrated until  a five year conservation and face lifting of the place was implemented. Present day, the old convent school has now become a place filled with food retail and beverage outlets, courtyards, covered walkways, a garden and a place known for its unique ambiance. Both the Caldwell House and the Convent of the Holy Infant Jesus Chapel were declared as national monument in 1990.

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The courtyard where special events can be held are spacious. The high beams and front facade projects some similarities with buildings found in India, no wonder since both Singapore and India were once colonized by the British and the architectural designs of both countries were drawn by British and Irish architects and engineers during the time of both nation's tenure as part of the British Empire.

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We had a fun time spending a couple of hours at Chijmes, reading about its history back from the old days of British rule until its transformation to a commercial and historical landmark of today. Our walk then took us to another known Singapore landmark, the Raffles Hotel.

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Raffles Hotel is a colonial styled hotel in Singapore which was constructed in late 1887 by the four Sarkies Brothers who were of Armenian descent and was named after the founder of Singapore, Sir Stamford Raffles. It is one of the most popular hotels in the world and is known for its lavish decoration, royalty-like accommodation and has a scenic garden and courtyard as well as a Victorian-styled theater.

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The hotel was used by the Japanese during world war II and was renamed to "Syonan Ryokan" and after the war was used for a short time as a base for transporting prisoners of war. The hotel continued operation a few years after the war and was declared as a national monument in 1987.

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We took a few pictures around the hotel, tried to order drinks but found out it was rather expensive for a bunch of thrift drifters like us, so we just hang around for a bit and pretended what it was like to stay in a hotel like this. The rooms I think ranges from 400 Singaporean Dollars to as high as 4,000 SG $. Unless you got aplenty of cash to burn, then your only option is to drop by Raffles hotel without checking in haha.

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We took our late lunch on a small cafeteria a mere walking distance from the Raffles Hotel, where the two cafeteria servants were Filipinos. I remember one of them telling us that we're lucky because we're in Singapore just to travel. I felt a bit of guilt finding out that theirs was for the long haul as OFW's and they really miss their families back home. However, they are happy to see us and we're happy to see them and we all wished each other the best. They in fact told us not to miss Sentosa Island, which we visited the next day.


Other facts about Raffles Hotel: (from wikipedia):

  • Raffles Hotel is reputedly where the sole surviving wild tiger in Singapore was shot and made extinct. Some stories place this event in the Long Bar. Raffles itself claims the tiger had escaped from enclosure at a nearby "native show" and chased underneath the hotel's Bar & Billiard Room (a raised structure) and shot to death there on August 13, 1902.
  • Raffles is where the Singapore Sling was invented. The cocktail was invented by bartender Ngiam Tong Boon between 1910 and 1915.
  • Raffles is the setting for Murakami Ryu's novel and film titled, Raffles Hotel. The film was shot on location.
  • The site of the hotel was originally the location of the oldest girls' school in Singapore (1842), now called St. Margaret's. It was founded by Maria (Tarn) Dyer, the missionary wife of Samuel Dyer.
  • The hotel was featured as a Japanese stronghold in Medal of Honor: Rising Sun.
  • Raffles Hotel was the subject of Paul O'Grady's Orient for Carlton Television.
  • The hotel featured in episodes of the BBC's Tenko.
  • Long Bar is featured in Peace Arch Entertainment's "UberGuide" television travel series as one of the top ten bars in the world.

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