Saturday, January 01, 2005

Heritage Tour

It was one of those hot afternoons, as we climbed down from the comfort of the air-conditioned coach onto the busy street. This was our last stop. We had already visited Little India (the food sold fondly reminded us of Harmony Day), the Abdul Ghafoor Mosque (the basement prayer hall with church-like stained glass windows was brilliantly added to the Mosque without relocation!). It was unfortunate that the Sri Veeramakaliaman Temple was closed in the afternoon (the tour guide said that one has to smash open a coconut before entering without pride or stubbornness)
After walking through some stalls selling chinese medicines and Bua Kua (curious combination this is), we gathered outside what looks like a tourist's souvenir shop. The guide led us to a dark, narrow opening at the back of the shop and this is where a journey to the past began - via the Chinatown Heritage Centre.
Excitement aside (look! My grandmother used to have that fan! Hey, I used that umbrella before!), from the miniature Chinese Junk (very similar to those we watched in those 80's SBC Chinese drama series) to the pictures of the first Chinese Association, we were served with sights and sound of the beginning of the Chinese immigrant.
The life of our forefathers was portrayed with the way they did business (an old-time western suit tailor shop was pieced together with artefacts), the food they ate (a wet market look-alike was created), their entertainment (gambling, drinking and opium etc) and the Japanese Occupation (true life account of survivors on monitors). The highlight had to be the Coolies' cramped living quarters and a rundown kitchen all recreated. The experience was such that we were simply transported back to the past, with the badly lit, stuffy looking quarter close to half the size of NPC's discussion room. I guess we could almost smell the despair of the coolies, thinking: "where is my next meal coming from?" The Kitchen came alive with a recorded conversation between a housewife and an older woman in Cantonese. No words could truly do justice to what we experienced.

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