Sunday 31 May 2015 – Singapore
Breakfast of kaya toast at the little kopitiam at Funan, then to the Peranakan Museum in Armenian Street. It has a wonderful collection and terrific guide who told the story of the Straits Chinese culture from her own personal family perspective and experience.
The National Museum of Singapore has been extended, but was full of nationalistic displays as it is the 50th anniversary of Singapore’s nationhood this year. Here and elsewhere were also displays commemorating Lee Kwan Yew, Singapore’s long-serving PM (or benevolent dictator, depending on your perspective), who had recently died. Other nationalistic displays celebrated the contribution of women to the nation-state, and ‘Singapore – 700 Years’, charting the history of the island nation from first European contact to the present day, including quite an interesting section detailing the role of Singapore’s beloved tradition of hawker stalls as a means of ensuring even the poorest could afford a basic and reasonably sustaining diet in the early days before Singapore’s wealth fully developed.
Unfortunately, most of these displays were displays and no more – there were precious few actual artefacts or collection items on display. Pointing out a rickshaw in the history display, the museum guide even let slip that it was one of very few original artefacts on show. Based on this disappointing visit my impression of Singapore’s National Museum is all foyer and no collection.
Hungry, I caught the MRT to Little India – just a few blocks from Orchard Road, but with the heat and bustle of another country entirely. I stopped for a meal on Serangoon Road before heading to the India Heritage Centre. There seems to be a museum dedicated to every major ethnic group in Singapore – Chinese, Malay and now Indian – which might explain why the National Museum is so little to display. This museum had some lovely artefacts and was well arranged, but it was very hot and crowded.
After a short rest back at the hotel, I visited my favourite Singapore hawker centre, Lau Pa Sat, set amidst the tower blocks of the business district – but not too far from Chinatown. Dinner of Thai fish cakes and ‘cereal prawns’ – delicious.
After dinner I returned to Funan Mall, which is entirely given over to technology and has a particularly huge Challenger mega store on its top floor given over to pretty much every accessory or gadget a traveller (or anyone else) could desire. I desired some spare camera batteries for my new Olympus mirrorless camera and I was offered a choice of Original Parts (over $65 each) or Generic Brand ($13 each). Needless to say, I went with the cheaper option (and can report that five years later they are all still working just fine). With the spare change I also bought another SD card and an airline headphone adapter, as the airline supplied phones on the trip over had been awful.