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traveller



our region

A

Somerset Maugham, the man who inspired me to become a writer. s we emerge from the air-conditioned carapace of the taxi I became obsessed with Maugham 30 years ago after reading a and into the wet heat of Singapore, Raffles, this grand old collection of his short stories, titled The Trembling of a Leaf (Little Stories lady of the Far East, stands like a giant wedding cake. of the South Seas Islands). These he wrote while travelling through We enter the hotel and a doorman in a turban greets us like long-lost relatives. the Far East in the 1920s, documenting the mores and manners of the We make our way to reception and the smell of British colonial ruling class. So, for me, Raffles is a tropical orchids tickles our nostrils. Exotic. But after spiritual place. checking in all I want to do is order a Singapore Maugham’s era of Raffles began with the grand Sling at the Long Bar or – like my wife – flop in opening of the largest ballroom in South-East Asia In my mind, the pool with hers. Singapore is incredibly hot. But in 1921 and closed with the formal surrender of the I see topee hats, the bedrooms are cool at Raffles, with their grand Japanese at City Hall in 1945. (During renovations ceilings, stately verandahs and bare floors. They steamer trunks and Raffles archivists unearthed numerous artefacts feel nothing like the Toyota homogeny of a Holiday from the Japanese occupation of the hotel.) But it’s pahit parties. Inn but everything like a vintage Rolls Royce. this juniper-soaked epoch I see in my mind’s eye as But in reality I’m now sitting in the celebrated Long Bar at tourists puncture my colonial reverie with chatter Raffles in a white-linen suit, drinking a Singapore about everything from Donald Trump’s White House I see T-shirts, Sling (invented at Raffles) and exhausting my prospects to that paragon of aspirational modernity, baggy shorts repertoire of faraway looks. I periodically dab sweat the Kardashians. from my brow with a handkerchief in the manner of In my imagination I hear the strains of the Raffles and thongs. Peter Lorre in the movie Casablanca. In my mind, I Dance Orchestra echoing around the ballroom’s see topee hats (pith helmets), steamer trunks and high opened walls as soldiers in white mess-coats pahit parties. But in reality I see T-shirts, baggy glide their partners elegantly across the polished shorts and thongs. And my leather-cornered steamer trunks, festooned dance floor; the ladies’ flowing gowns are made from Chinese silk, with P&O labels from exotic locales, have been superseded by soulless, purchased in Chinatown after some throaty haggling by a Singaporewheeled vertical nylon suitcases. born ladies maid. (Indeed, my wife ordered a skirt in Chinatown from a Before the war, Raffles was the haunt of Hemingway, Hesse, Conrad, tailor while we were there.) Coward and Kipling. But Raffles is most associated with William Raffles luminaries were not restricted to scribes. Actor Douglas

July – August 2016

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Paradise: the in-flight magazine of Air Niugini, July/August 2016  

The July/August 2016 Issue (Vol 4, 2016) of 'Paradise' magazine, the in-flight magazine of Air Niugini, the national airline of Papua New Gu...

Paradise: the in-flight magazine of Air Niugini, July/August 2016  

The July/August 2016 Issue (Vol 4, 2016) of 'Paradise' magazine, the in-flight magazine of Air Niugini, the national airline of Papua New Gu...