A lesson in the arts and history at the price of a bowl of noodles and with the best one can find in his travels

19 11 2012

A snap shot of Bin, taking a snap shot of the very colorful Fire Station, Clarke Quay, Singapore

IT’S FUNNY how it takes hosting a visitor before I realize how much of Singapore I have been missing out on.  Don’t get me wrong, I mean, for over a year now I have had my palate tickled and my belly – protruding, I have to say – pleased by the many gustatory options on offer in the Lion City.  Even I, with my insatiable appetite that has become the stuff of legends, end a meal with a smile plastered on my face.  The insatiable satiated by the guile of mee kiajia mee kia.

So when my recent–visitor–now–very–good–friend Bin floated the idea of visiting museums, I grabbed the opportunity with the quiet fierce precision of a Miyagi-san showing Daniel-san how to imprison a fly into the grasp of the chopsticks.

After office hours on the last day of his weeks-long assignment, Bin and I went on a walking tour of the city that led us to the Asian Civilisations Museum (ACM) at 1 Empress Place, a five-minute walk from Raffles Place MRT Station.  Though we came on foot all the way from Clarke Quay.

Bin, on the last day of his recent short-term assignment here in Singapore, about to cross the street.


Bin by the Riverwalk


“eNTeNG, can you keep up?”


At the Parliament


“eNTeNG, put a step on it! You’re … so… slow.”


The lobby of the Asian Civilisations Museum at 1 Empress Place. The entrance is on the left. The front desk is to the right. That’s the gift shop you see straight ahead.

This was not Bin’s first time at a museum here in Singapore, national monuments and museums being within minutes from his hotel and within five to ten minutes walking distance from one another.  Actually, he has been to ACM before, only thing was, it was already about to close and the farthest he had gone was view the giant calligraphy work of the “dragon” that soon found its way (henna) tattooed on to his upper left arm.


Are you students?


I looked quizzically at the front desk personnel, felt my lips break into a half smile and turned to Bin, brows furrowed but still with a smile on.  I subtly shook my head but even before I could coyly respond with the truth but in a manner as if acknowledging an indirect compliment, Bin simply said,


No.  We’re not students.

Then the adult charge will apply.


I could’ve died in boisterous laughter at this point when I realized she didn’t really ask because I was probably young-looking.  She just wanted to make sure the right rates would be applied.  I tried very hard to keep the boisterous laughter inside, we were in a museum after all.  Haha!


But if you’re willing to wait another 32 minutes then you can avail of our half off special.


Well what do you know!  Half–off specials are no longer confined to happy hour at the bars or at some gourmet restaurant that still wants to attract the crowds late into the evening.

I couldn’t help but declare, in my admittedly booming voice sometimes,


People in the arts are really not into it for the money!  Such noble people!


Then just as quickly I realized I had to clarify one more thing lest I subject myself to be embarrassed during the museum tour.


May I take photos?

Yes, but no flash photography please.

Oh, that’s great…  I know… intense light…


I guess I must’ve embarrassed Bin a little – he turns red easily (Haha!) – that he motioned me to move away from the front desk already.  We turned around and there it was, the perfect place to burn 30 or so minutes – the museum gift shop, aptly called, the “MUSEUM LABEL.”

MUSEUM LABEL, in the tiny – okay, make that ‘cozy’ – space it occupies at the corner by the entrance, bursts in the seams with an eclectic mix of goods a lot of different people could snap up.  The many personalities that make me up wanted to snap up everything in sight.

But for my rather limited capacity to contribute to a little more altruism in this world, I decided to forego my own selfish lusting after the limited edition museum wristwatch and agreed with Bin to get a surprise and dare I say, perfectly suited present for someone.

We decided on this shirt as the perfect present for someone.


We signed the guest book at the shop. Of course!


We helped ourselves with the free brochures.

After helping ourselves to all the beautiful, well-made, free flyers and brochures on all things Singaporean museums and national heritage available on the wall opposite the shop, it was time to ring up our purchase of two half-off tickets.

We were told that the English language guided tour was about to start.  Bin and I joined and by the time we both passed by the giant dragon calligraphy, I knew we were being ushered into a world that would reveal to me Singapore’s diverse cultural roots and just how rich the island’s history is.

Armed with just my Blackberry Bold 9780, I began snapping shots and noticed that the participants in the guided tour were a veritable United Nations on its own.  I loved how the guide perked things up by throwing curve balls of questions here and there.  I could spot who were probably the A students during their time.  They could’ve raised their hands first before answering and I swear it would just be like high school all over again.

As for me, I contented myself with just soaking up all the art and the history that was surrounding me.  Though I have to admit, if the guide promised a 3 Musketeers or a Milky Way chocolate bar for every correct answer I would wrestle my through the crowd and scream at the top of my lungs.  Haha!  I have to keep reminding myself, “eNTeNG, you’re in a museum.  Show some respect!

We passed by the Southeast Asia Galleries 3. 4 & 4A and marveled at the sight of artifacts from the Philippines – the Sarimanok, the Buraq, and a set of armour.

I felt so at home.

A humongous bronze drum. “What do you think this is?” was the first of the guide’s questions.




I asked Bin if this is still observed in China and he said that it is.


The guided tour had us moving between floors. I saw this near the stairs landing and just had to have a shot. To me it has the makings of a movie poster. I’m thinking…


The Singapore Asian Civilisations Museum is proud of this piece. It is one of only five in existence in the world right now.


Bin taking a photo of the Buraq. It’s from the Philippines!


The Buraq


The Sarimanok


Explaining The Sarimanok


A set of armour in metal and other materials


Explaining the set of armour. I wondered, “who could have worn this?” The answer’s here.


By the time we finished – we closed the place that night – we took the flight of stairs all the way back to the lobby. At some point, I looked up and saw this amazing view of the Singaporean skyline through the museum windows. I couldn’t resist to take at least one shot.



Copyright © 2012 by eNTeNG  c”,)™©’s  MunchTime™©.  All rights reserved




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