Sentosa & the Asian Civilisations Museum

I had this great plan for Monday.  I was going to ride the MRT to the Harborfront, take the monorail to Sentosa, hop on a ferry, and go to Kusu Island to see the temples and beaches.  I was totally successful with the plan until I got to Sentosa and learned that the ferry talked about in my guidebook doesn’t exist there.  Oh well, no biggie.  I ended up spending the day in Sentosa.

Sentosa is an island in southern Singapore and is known for being a touristy, resort area.  Since I was there on a Monday, it was somewhat of a ghost town.  I didn’t mind.  I was free to mosey all over the island.  I even saw some peacocks wandering around the island, too.  I had no idea that there were wild peacocks here.  They’re huge.  They’re about the size of turkeys, only maybe a little bigger.
I wandered along the beach, dipping my toes in the water every so often.  The water here has a bit of an aqua-greenish tint to it.  It’s gorgeous.  The only thing marring the view of this tropical paradise was the abundance of gigantic ships and tankers anchored out in the sea.  Singapore has always been known for its port, which has enabled it to rise to such prosperity.
While at Sentosa, I was able to stand at the southern-most point of continental Asia, although I think it’s kind of a stretch to call it part of continental Asia.  Think about the geography.  You’ve got peninsular Malaysia, which is definitely on the continent.  Then, you have to cross a bridge from Malaysia to get onto the island of Singapore.  Next, you have to cross another bridge to get on the island of Sentosa.  And finally, you have to walk across a suspension bridge onto a tiny little islet.  The way I see it, you are a few islands from continental Asia.  Either way, I was there, and it looked really neat.
Yesterday, which was Tuesday, I visited the Asian Civilisations Museum.  (In case you’re wondering, yes, it is ‘civilisations’ spelled with an ‘s.’)  This museum was amazing!  I spent all day there, breaking only for lunch.  With my student ID, it was only S$2.50 (= US$1.77) for the whole day!  I spent my first hour there on a guided tour and learned all sorts of things about the different Asian, South Asian, and West Asian cultures that have influenced Singapore.  Being a popular free port, Singapore has attracted people from all sorts of places and cultures.  It is truly amazing how much diversity there is in Singapore.  The main cultures influencing Singapore are Chinese, Malay, and Indian.  In the museum these three cultures, along with Indonesian, Vietnamese, Muslim, Thai, and a few others, were represented.
This particular museum focuses on the earlier cultural influences in Singapore from before the British came.  I am having a challenging time understanding the general feelings towards the history of cultural influences in Singapore.  As far as I can tell, the story goes that, first, the island was under control of the Malay empire.  At some point, there were Malay and Chinese people living here.  Then the British came and took control of it, with Sir Thomas Stamford Raffles as the driving force for modernization.  Under the British rule, the island became a free port and was a central hub for trade.  At this time, a lot of Indians from southern India came.  Then, during World War II Singapore was under Japanese occupation.  At the end of the war, the British ousted the Japanese, and it was under British rule for a short while until gaining its independence.  Ever since then, it’s been run as a single-party democracy.
The part that confuses me about all of this is that I cannot figure out what the people think about all of it.  Do they look favorably upon the British?  My guidebooks and most of the historical landmarks seem to venerate Sir Thomas Stamford Raffles, but I don’t get the feeling that he even registers as being important to the Singaporean people.  It’s quite clear that they hated the Japanese occupation.  But, I cannot figure out what they think of their so-called democracy now.  After all, how much can you like a one party democracy?
Whatever the case, I am glad that I’ve found a good research question for me.  I’ve been at a loss without schoolwork since graduation, and now I think I’ve found an academic project for me to work on.  I was such a nerd in the museum yesterday.  I brought a little notebook and took notes during the tour and also during the subsequent 7 hours I spent in there wondering around.
By the time I was done combing through the museum’s exhibits, it was time to meet with Beth for dinner.  We went to her favorite stall at a hawker center and had a delicious meal of beer and meat on a stick.  Okay, fine, it’s really called satay chicken and satay beef.  But, doesn’t meat on a stick with beer sound like a more interesting meal?  We split a pitcher of Tiger beer, the local beer of Singapore.  It’s a good, basic beer: nothing too fancy and certainly better than some other beers I’ve had in my day.  All in all, it was a delicious meal to end a great day!