Asian Civilizations, Mickey Mouse and Contemporary Art
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Although Singapore museums aren't the world-renowned centers of the universe for arts and exhibitions, they do boast a more than reasonable palette of big and elegant institutions, trendy houses and a few smaller ones that have a unique charm all of their own.
Singapore Museums - The Big Ones
If you want to spend a day checking out 'the scene', why not start out at the Asian Civilizations
museum right down at the Singapore River, across from the CBD.
It is housed in the old Empress Place building with its colonial grandeur.
The building hosts - guess what - exhibitions on Asian civilizations from the Islamic west to the Chinese Buddhist east of the continent, and everything in between.
Indian silks, Buddhas and Indonesian puppets - a whole continent in an hour.
It is also the venue for some pretty interesting travelling exhibits: terracotta warriors from China, Indian textiles or masks from the Congo basin.
It is a good one, no doubt, although I find the set up of the galleries somewhat confusing, but maybe that's just me.
Move on to the heavy-duty National Archives and see who was buried at some of the oldest Chinese cemeteries, listen to folks talk about their experiences during the war in Singapore, or have a look at architectural drawings from prominent buildings.
Sir Thomas Raffles' original letters are here too, but - alas - no luck in actually seeing them unless you are an accredited scholar with a legitimate reason to have a look.
They have videos showing the work that goes into preserving documents - quite the effort - and their merchandise section offers a replica Japanese war pistol - hmm.
Let's hit the NMS
for world class travelling exhibitions from institutions around the world and a 'living galleries' section that sketches Singapore in film, fotos and artifacts.
The building is old and grand and elegant - just what you need in a museum of the traditional kind.
Go eclectic at the
Singapore's premier venue for arts.
This is the cool sister to the NMS. It hosts everything modern in art, and explores deeper philosophical topics like environment and man, consumerism or life after death.
It's in the annexe, the 8Q SAM, where you can find the ultra-contemporary displays.
Off the Beaten Track
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No big national museums without a run of smaller and quirkier Singapore museums, right?
Museum of Toys, right next to Raffles hotel.
See tin Mickey and Minnie and Japanese robots right out of a 50's science fiction comic.
This stuff all belonged to one collector - wow.
The original Chinese immigrants intermarried with local Malays, and apart from the inevitable babies, they also produced a whole new culture, a mashup of Malay and Chinese forms, traditions, colors and language.
Celebrating this culture is the Peranakan
Dive into the food, clothing, furniture and jewelry of the Peranakan, including a wedding get-up and enjoy intricately inlaid furniture pieces in the lobby.
Strangely enough, when you ask people in Singapore today if they are Peranakan, nobody seems to admit to it.
There are a few Peranakan, or Nonya, restaurants in Singapore, though. I have tried some - they are good.
Mind the chili, please.
'Come upstairs and see my stamp collection, baby!' - says the guy to his date.
That takes on a whole new meaning at the
I know what you're thinking - stamps, yaaaawn. But really - give it a chance.
Not only can you see some authentic old stamps and artefacts from Straits Settlement times which make collectors breathe hard and sweat profusely, but the temporary exhibits parallel current events and exhibitions at other places on the island.
Tin Tin or Chinese revolutionary Dr. Sun Yat Sen, as seen through stamps!
And finally, on a more sombre note as Singapore museums go, head out east towards Changi prison - yes, the same place they cane offenders even today - to experience the infamous Japanese prison camp
where 70,000 prisoners were housed for years.
Many of the soldiers interned here were tortured and then sent to die in Burma on the notorious railway projects.
Australian prisoners built a chapel - now reconstructed - while pictures, artifacts and photographs illustrate daily camp life.
Oh, One More...
If you are into product design, head over to the Red Dot Traffic
, an offshoot of the Design Zentrum in Germany and housed in a big red - what other color could possibly be used - former traffic police headquarter.
Today, it is the home of a design competition for products and has a showcase of winning products from the past years.
A nice place for staging events, too.
See - told you. Enough for a few days worth of Singapore museum corridor trotting fun.
Enough Singapore museums - back to more wonders and marvels of Singapore attractions...