Malay Today

All the pampering and relaxation of the last couple of days must be starting to pay off, because we can’t for the life of us decide what to do today.  As it turns out we decided it wasn’t going to be much, and what could suit that requirement better than anything else?  Sitting on the sightseeing bus.

It’s actually something I’ve not done before in Singapore – apart from the special bus that drives you around to see the Christmas lights at the end of the year.  And it’s kind of nice.  It gives a different perspective on Singapore, seeing things from a different height.  There’s more scope to appreciate the amazing architecture and I even spotted things I must have walked past a million times and not noticed before.

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There are, as always roadworks going on – more additions to Singapore’s wonderful MRT system.  This time the roads around Little India are being dug up like there’s no tomorrow, and I wonder how far away it will be before the new route is completed?

When we arrive at Kampong Glam, otherwise known as the Malay Quarter, we jump off the bus to explore.  Although I have been here a couple of times before, I have not yet ventured inside the Malay Heritage Centre.  The beautiful wooden floorboards are a welcome relief to bare feet and as we pad through the rooms of what was the former Istana (royal residence) of the Sultanate of Singapore-Johor, we get to learn all about Singapore’s Malay heritage.

Built in 1819, the Istana now houses an array of historical artefacts which detail the many stories of the Malays.  From every day household items to musical history, this is another example of Singapore’s wonderful museum odes to its cultural background.  I’ve said it before, and I’ll say it again – museums are something that Singapore does incredibly well.

The museum is situated next to Sultan Mosque and to enter you pay your ticket entrance fee at the small pavilion next door to the Istana.  Visitors are then required to remove their shoes and leave them in the shelving outside.

One of the other incredible things we found today was something that had alluded me on previous visits to Singapore – the Civilian War Memorial.  The padang (the Malay word for ‘field) is a stretch of green located on the left bank of the Singapore River.  It was a popular place for people to meet and relax and had been a place of social gathers before the times of colonisation.  When the Japanese occupied Singapore during WWII, it was also the place where the Japanese hearded together the European population before marching them off to Changi Prison.

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The memorial was completed in 1967 on the site of the Padang in remembrance of those civilians killed during the Japanese occupation of Singapore.  The design was selected in an open competition and was won by one of Singapore’s most renowned architects – Leong Swee Lim.  The four posts, sometimes referred to as the giant chopsticks locally, symbolise the four main cultures of Singapore:  Chinese, Eurasian, Indian and Malay.  The remains of unknown victims are buried beneath the memorial.

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