On Saturday, The AdCrew (Sarah, Joelyn, Avariel and I) went to the former Istana Kampung Gelam (or the Kampung Gelam Palace, in English) which had been converted into the Malay Heritage Centre. The last time I was there, it was only for a short while, to see the Photographs of Malaya Exhibit, from the early 1800s to early 1900s. I didn’t have time to go through the main exhibit so I’m glad when the ladies of the crew suggested that we do a little museum trip.
Since I’ve never been to the centre, I’d wondered what kind of exhibits they had regarding the Malay culture and history.
The istana or palace doesn’t look anything like the ones you would see in other countries. It’s small in comparison and looks just like a large house, but then, what do I know. I imagined what it must have been like to live in the compound, back in the heyday of the area.
Around the compound itself, they have little huts for guests to rest for a while. Among other things within the compound, there was a scent garden where they grew local aromatic herbs, a model of a boat used by the Bugis people and a horse-drawn carriage, minus the horse.
One of the things I love about being a student is that, with a valid student pass, you get to go museums for free! Once the nice lady at the counter gave us our museum guide, we made our way in.
The exhibits were arranged chronologically, starting with how the Malays (which refers to all the different dialects; the Javanese, the Boyanese, the Minang and the Bugis) from within the Archipelago became sea-faring people and how they migrated from their homeland to other places within the region.
In the next chamber, we encountered a display case that held the portable personal canon, which I’m assuming is just a prototype for a bazooka. I mean look at it, It’s so small and portable but I’m sure it’s not as light as I’m thinking it is.
As we moved along the first floor of the centre, I came across this display case, showing the different things that a person would take with them for the Haj pilgrimage, back in the 50s. Back then, all the pilgrimage journeys were made via boat. The journey would take months. Can you imagine going on a voyage as long as that?
On the second floor of the building is where they had exhibits to show what life was like from the 40s to the 70s and 80s. They even had an exhibit from the set of a very popular classic Malay movie, Seniman Bujang Lapok.
Here’s a clip from the movie:
I don’t think there isn’t a single Malay person out there who has not seen this movie, at least once. It’s hilarious and the dialogues are so memorable.
One of my favourite exhibits is the showcase full of classic tidbits, toiletries, medications and cigarettes of old. Most of the stuff in that case can still be found in the shops today but the packaging and the sizes might differ. I’m actually old enough to remember when they changed the Darlie toothpaste from the old packaging and the old branding to the newer one.
Other than the movie set, they had turned one of the rooms into a smallish replica of a kampung house, complete with zinc roofs, wooden floors that creak when you walk and even the cupboards within the tiny house were really old. In fact, the whole exhibit looks like a tiny version of my grandma’s place. They even got the wooden house smell, just right. It gave me a sense of nostalgia.
Overall, I thought it was a very interesting trip. The museum wasn’t overly large, so you could finish going through all the exhibits in under two hours. I had fun and would definitely recommend it to anyone who loves museums.