One of the main things I missed about big cities is their abundance of museums, so I jumped at the chance to visit the National Museum of Singapore with Ran, my new Indonesian friend. The National Museum of Singapore is the oldest museum in the country and a cultural and architectural landmark.
Even though I have no background in architecture, it’s easy to see how impressive the building is on the inside and out. Many tall, white columns support the entranceway and the first floor features arched windows. There is also a dome with a spire in the middle. Inside, the museum’s wooden floors and glass ceilings give the place a modern look.
The museum had a special exhibit on the cheongsam, a traditional, tight-fitting dress worn by Chinese women. The show traced the dress (and the powerful women who wore them) through the years and showcased different cuts, fabrics and patterns. It followed the dress as it subtly morphed with the times and paralleled the rise of women in Singapore.
Ran and I also visited Clarke Quay and Fort Canning, a green space in the middle of a concrete jungle. We spent some time in the spice garden, which is a reproduction of Sir Stamford Raffles’ first spice garden. He is known as the “Father of Singapore.”
It was hard not to notice how vastly different New Zealand and Singapore are even as I stood surrounded by Fort Canning’s greenery. In comparison with Rotorua’s Whakarewarewa Redwood Forest, Fort Canning felt artificial and its preservation seemed to be an afterthought during the massive urbanization of the country. The realization that I was no longer in New Zealand finally hit me. As the saying goes, “I’ve a feeling we’re not in Kansas any more.”