Sir Stamford Raffles (1786-1821). National Singapore Museum. Raffles founded the city and harbour of Singapore in the early 1800’s, negotiating a deal with the local Sultan. The strategy was to create a British stronghold to balance the Dutch domination of Indonesia. Raffles was born on a ship off the coast of Jamaica. A “colonial” of sorts. My point of interest: the National Museum of Singapore has this portrait in a prominent place. No apparent resentment against the former British colonial power. they’re just part of Singapore’s history.
Singapore airport, way back then. 50’s I guess, just around independence. I put the date at 1959 when Singapore was granted/obtained internal self-governement, led by Prime Minister Lee Kuan Yew.
Changi airport, now. (2017). Changi airport is repeatedly qualified as one of the best airports in the world. I second that motion. I don’t know of any other airport as beautiful and well-organized as Changi.
Gardens by the Bay, Singapore, December 2017. The space is limited in Singapore. It is a tiny city-state covering 720 sq. kms for a population of 5.8 million. Yet, they have managed to preserve wide stretches of parks along with the most modern constructions. Gardens by the Bay is a must-see. The crowds strolling carelessly at night are a good reminder of the high levels of safety.
“Paparazzi”, Singapore, 2018. (I need to control my candid camera shots, lest I start looking like a “dawg”…)
House of noise, Singapore. 2017. Strangely enough, almost anyone I talk to about Singapore and its achievements, invariably replies “Yes, but it is an authoritarian state.” Maybe, but the people on the street don’t seem to live in a dictatorship (as I have seen in too many parts of the world). This house of noise was quite “loud”, and the participants did have lots of fun…
New and old, Singapore. As a personal hypothesis, I think part of Singapore’s success is based on “Balance”. Balance between old and new, tradition and modernity, between all the cultures: A vast majority of the population are Straights Chinese, also called the Peranakan, (76%), Malay and ethnic Indians. Not to mention foreigners. There are four official languages: Malay, English, Mandarin and Tamil. Though I suspect the Chinese population speaks Hokkien more.
Water pipes, National Museum. I was very surprised to see those. Why? See below:
Our own personal water pipe, a gift from my brother, the flea market vendor… Maybe I should set up a museum, and charge for entrance… 🙂
I have no idea who Mr Smith, Esq. was, but I find it another good example of Singapore’s mentality. Most of the streets seem to have retained their pre-Independence names. Again, no resentment against the former colonial power. They’re integrated as part of the national history. And the street names have not been changed as they have in many “independent” countries I know.
Though chewing-gum is strictly forbidden – fine by me, the costs involved in cleaning gum on streets around the world are outrageous – and it is supposedly an ‘authoritarian’ state, street art can be found around many corners.
Traditional Peranakan or baba-nyonya shophouse… (You can see the exact same houses in Georgetown, Penang)
An artist’s view of the traditional houses. Peranakan museum, I believe… Those houses stretch from one street to the other. The ground floor with the windows and door holds the shop, the warehouse is at the back and the living quarters are upstairs. Lovely houses. We stayed at one such renovated house in Penang. Beautiful.
More street art. Can’t tell what it is though.
Beers of the world series. Don’t forget to try a Tiger in the City of Lions (Sing = Lion; Pur=City)
Kraken roams the streets of Singapore…
The Phoenix (Fenghuang in Mandarin?) is the symbol of high virtue and grace. It seems males were called Feng and females Huang… So FengHuang means male/female? Asian friends, help me there. It is also the symbol of Feminity. (Source Quota.com)
Chinese mortars, National Museum. Those impressed me too. That “technology” is about 15 to 20,000 years old. The mortars were used to grind grain, rice, most likely, to make flour. Still used, I’m sure, to grind all sorts of food. Why do I say the origin is so ancient? See the following “exhibit”:
Mexican molcajete in our kitchen in Mexico. The rectangular ones are called Metate. Since the American “Indian” population came from Asia between 15 and 20,000 years ago, I have to assume they carried their mortars with them. No small feat, those things weigh a ton. See the resemblance?
“Our” road in Singapore… (Can’t resist posting it!) 😉 Every member of the family who goes to Singapore, drives there to take a picture. This very short road was named after my great-uncle, René Onraet. Between 1917 and 1939, he was head of Special Branch in the Straights police. And as such, tracked terrorists, Kuo-min-tang agents, what have you. In many other places he would be considered an agent of colonialism, in Singapore he is part of their history. See this post on part of the family story from the Raj to Singapore:
Forgotten Gods? Part of the population is ethnic Indian, Tamil. As such they are Hindus, worshipping the many gods of the Hindu pantheon. There are many temples everywhere. I came across those seemingly discarded statues on the sidewalk. They all most certainly have a name. Need more research. I know a few places, where the statues wouldn’t last long on the street before being stolen. Not in Singapore…
The goldfish represents wealth and prosperity. (Also lack of memory for a friend of mine…) Just learnt that the Chinese (Mandarin?) word for fish is yú, which translates into abundance, yù. Note the accent aigu: ´, on the the first word and the accent grave, `, on the second word. Probably makes for an entirely different pronunciation. (I love research)
Madame Wellington Koo. National Museum. A perfect example of “Fusion”. Let’s read the Museum’s words:
“This portrait of Madame Wellington Koo (1899-1992) wearing fashionable Western dress embodies the cosmopolitan nature of Peranakans of the time. Comfortable in both Asia and the West, Madame Koo was an international fashion icon, appearing in Vogue magazine in the 1920’s… in 1921, she married Chinese diplomat Wellington Koo… this was her second marriage, and his third…”
In the 20’s the Straights Chinese were ‘comfortable’ with both West and East. I have evidence they still are. And most, if not all, adopt an English first name in addition to their Chinese first name. Practical. That ‘comfort’ enabled them to make the best of both worlds, and create one of the very few countries that has actually gone from Third world to developed country in half a century. (Not to mention that in 1921, very few Western countries had implemented divorce laws…‘second and third marriage’?)
Gimme a five! Little G. with a Baba-Nyonya girl in front of the Peranakan museum in Singapore… (2 years ago; he has grown and changed so much…) 😉
Allow me to conclude: in a world of growing instability and violence we need to look very closely at Asia. The future of humanity is being built there. Sounds like an overstatement? Go and see for yourself.
I wrote this post on February 18th. Two centuries ago. Asia? I know some blame China for the virus. And China most certainly tried to cover it up at first. Nor can one believe they haven’t had a single casualty in weeks. But China is not the only “player” in Asia. South Korea has handled the virus well. So has Singapore: 15,000 reported cases is not bad. (But then some will say again they’re an “authoritarian regime.”) I have it on good authority that Viet-Nam is coming out of confinement… Considering the recent pitiful performance of many western political leaders, I insist: we have a lot to learn from Asia.
Thanks, Kam-Siah, for bearing with me and flying Equinoxio’s Time-Space shuttle. Stay home, stay safe. 🙏