Where is the Fullerton, exactly? At Mile Zero. The Fullerton, strategically located where the Singapore River meets the sea, is the point from which all distances in the Lion City are measured – and not just geographically. It’s played a central position in the island’s history.
You mean as a hotel? It’s only been a hotel since then-prime minister Goh Chok Tong declared it one at midnight on January 1, 2001. Before then it had been the General Post Office, the place where Singaporeans paid their taxes and – as home to the Ministry of Finance and the Economic Development Board – the so-called engine room of Singapore’s post-colonial success.
Impressive. It certainly is. When it was built, in 1928, in neoclassical style with massive Doric columns, it was a gigantic statement by a mighty power. Fourteen years later, the Fullerton was where the British surrendered to the Japanese; the empire never recovered.
So why’s it in the news now? It’s just been declared a National Monument. Current Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong (son of first prime minister Lee Kuan Yew) and Goh were at the hotel for the ceremony.
Did they check in? No. But those who do can choose from 400 spacious rooms and suites. As you might imagine, size isn’t an issue in any aspect of this hotel’s operations. There’s a massive atrium lobby, huge buffets in the Town restaurant (the laksa is particularly delicious) and, if you go up to the Rooftop Bar (below) after dark, you’ll have a stunning 360-degree view of the tidily twinkling city-state. Levels of service are similarly high.
Anything else? Yes. As homage to its past, the Fullerton has two red postboxes in its lobby, both carrying the royal insignia of Queen Elizabeth and both still functioning. No shilly-shallying nonsense about decolonisation in this part of the world. Singapore is embracing its colonial past, and attracting tourists – plus global media coverage – by cleverly converting the tropical relics of its former masters to contemporary use. The stunning National Gallery, which opened in November, used to be two British icons, City Hall and the Supreme Court; now they’ve been architecturally stitched together to showcase the region’s artists and are about 10 minutes’ stroll, beneath frangipani and flame-of-the-forest trees, from the Fullerton. Or you can visit the nearby Asian Civilisations Museum (built in the 1860s), the National Museum (built in the 1880s) and the Peranakan Museum (built in 1912).
What about newer buildings? The Fullerton Bay Hotel, which opened in 2010, is a short walk from its big sister; it’s got a lovely, chic-boutique vibe and a highly recommended restaurant, Clifford Pier, where the boats used to land in years gone by. It may be time the relevant authorities in Hong Kong get their act together, sail over there and see how history is being smartly handled.
What’s the bottom line? The Fullerton’s prices start at about HK$2,800 per night including breakfast. For more details, go to www.fullertonhotel.com.