Tuesday, June 29, 1999
from the Peninsula: 17. An enlightening trip

For many people Singapore is not more than a place to shop. They say they can finish Singapore in less than a week. But I don't think so. Even after spending 5 days in Singapore, I still feel I haven't seen enough.

Singapore has lots of places to visit. Their museums are good (certainly much better than our museums). I like Singapore’s museums. Their museums always has lots of information and hi-tech facilities. They really use audio-visual technology to enhance or dramatise, to make things more interesting.

They create a lot of other places to visit: historical places (old buildings, landmarks), gardens and theme parks. Singaporeans sell their historical places. Old forts, old buildings, and they make them very interesting. They have beautiful old buildings from the colonial times and they maintain them and let foreign people know of these landmarks and sell them as places to take photographs. I felt I had to visit all of those landmarks: those beautiful old churches, convents, mosques, synagoges, temples, and governmental buildings. To think about it Jakarta actually has a lot but we just neglect them.

Today I visited The Battle Box, Singapore History Museum, Singapore Art Museum and the Asian Civilisation Museum.

The Battle Box is in the heart of the city, up on Canning Hill, within walking distance of the Orchard Road. As usual, even though it is right smack in downtown area it is very green and fresh. The Battle Box in Fort Canning used to be the Malayan Command Headquarter during the WW II. It is in this place that the British colonial government decided to surrender to the Japanese in 1942. But its history is longer than that. It used to be the site of the government center of Sultans. There’s an archeological dig at the hillside.

Like in Fort Siloso The Battle Box has great visual and sound effect. Arriving in The Battle Box people were made to pretend they’re the new recruits and would be taken in a tour around the fort. In the semi dark underground rooms we could find life-size wax statues, which could move and talk. There were also some hologram pictures. Sometimes I was afraid because the statues were life like and I was there alone (as usual). It's quite spooky you know being in a dark underground, alone, only surrounded by wax statues and hologram people but they were life like, they could move and talk!

In the Singapore History Museum I saw a 3D movie about Singapore's history. I'm amazed that they honestly showed all phases of their history, including the several racialist riots they had. When will Indonesians be mature enough to be able to do that? We keep refusing to acknowledge the atrocities we have performed during the several riots we had.

I somehow feel that Singaporeans realise their place in history and in the world, while we don’t. Singaporeans face their historical events bravely, all those colonial times, those hardship, those racialist riots, political disturbances. They accept the historical truth and don’t cover it from their people. Or at least not as much as we do. That's why (I think) they can make the most of what they have.

Indonesians always have problems facing history. We cover what we don't want to remember and we highlight things we want to remember. That's a bad attitude. These highlightings lead to indoctrinations and brainwashing and so our people learn to hate our own history, they don't want to learn from it and cannot appreciate it. We neglect and destroy our old colonial and Chinese buildings. We hate museums and our museums are just like drab places nobody ever want to visit. Definitely not like in Singapore. They have beautiful museums here. They made a 3D movie of their historical events, even the dark events, and young Singaporeans and outsiders view it with interests, not with smirks.

The Asian Civilisation Museum shows Chinese culture. This is another thing that I learn from my trip. One of the difference between Indonesia and Malaysia & Singapore: in Malaysia and Singapore they can proudly show old Chinese houses and we can't! It is because in Singapore and Malaysia, they accept the Chinese culture of their Chinese people as part of their nation's culture. This doesn't happen in Indonesia. We accept them reluctantly. In the Indonesian Miniature Park we have exhibitions of the many different cultures from the different tribes and cultural groups that we have in Indonesia, but none shows the Chinese culture, which is actually part of our heritage. We have them, an integrate part of Indonesian daily life. No wonder our Chinese friends feel so lost in our country.

This trip is simply a very enriching experience for me and I’m so glad I made it. Along the journey I realised that not many Indonesian people have this kind of experience. Not many Indonesian people can go abroad and certainly not many had gone abroad backpacking!

Trhoughout our journey people always tought that we were Filipinos. In Thailand they think that we were either Thais or Filipinos. When we told them we’re Indonesian they would be very surprised. We talked about it and we agreed that we are unique. Young Indonesian people who have the chance to go abroad are mostly rich children, so they don’t have to go backpacking. The others only get the chance to go when they have enough money and they are mostly too old to go backpacking so they would go on tours. So we are very proud that we can make this backpacking trip and had the chance to learn a lot of new things. Widen our views.

This trip really opens my mind. I get to see different life and different world. I really learn so much. In Indonesia historical monuments and museums stand only as boring places that we had to visit when we're still in school. Because we receive too many indoctrinations and brainwashings about how our predecessors have fought for our freedom and how we fought communism and won, those words just sound like slogans to our ear.

Now after I learned about our neighbours’ views of their histories, I begin to realise and appreciate Indonesia's struggle for freedom and our own history. So I began to have an understanding, not just a knowledge. How I wish my brother and sister can have this kind of trip too! I've told them that someday they have to have this kind of trip and they have to use it to learn. I promise them I will help them, as long as they will work hard for it.

So here I am, back home. A different person. Still the same ‘me’, but with a wider view. A richer mind and heart.

Jakarta, Tuesday 29 June 1999

Posted at 11:03 pm by koeniel


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    from the Peninsula: 17. An enlightening trip
    from the Peninsula: 16. War and other things
    from the Peninsula: 15. Back in Singapore
    from the Peninsula: 14. A night on the bus
    from the Peninsula: 13. Back to Malaysia
    from the Peninsula: 12. The City of Angels
    from the Peninsula: 11. Palaces & Dead Soldiers
    from the Peninsula: 10. the train journey
    from the Peninsula: 9. About Penang
    from the Peninsula: 8. The Drive around Penang
    from the Peninsula: 7. About KL
    from the Peninsula: 6. About Malaka
    from the Peninsula: 5. in old Malaka
    from the Peninsula: 4. Green Singapore
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