Sunday, August 07, 2016

Makeover Time!

Yes, I've refreshed the background and colours and font for this blog.  Was getting a little tired of the old look.  Hope you like it!

Saturday, July 23, 2016

Historical Malacca

I've visited Malacca so many times over the years, but (I'm sorry to say) I've never been that good at visiting its museums.  Aside from the Baba and Nonya Museum and the Jewellery Museum of course :-).  This last visit was different and we spent a few hours at the Malacca Historical and Ethnography Museum.  Located in the Stadhuys - the centre of Government under the Dutch - the history museum covers the history of Malacca, up to the Independence of Malaysia, and the ethnography museum covers the rich culture of the different ethnic groups which live in the little melting pot in this corner of Malaysia.

I'm certainly glad that we made the effort to visit.  It is first and foremost such a relief to find a cool refuge from the heat of our tropical weather.  More importantly, the museum really explains well how the historical developments over the years have created the vibrant culture of its people today.  The two are indeed inseparably linked.  

As I learnt in my Secondary school history lessons, Malacca started off, when Prince Parameswara left Sumatra and found himself a refuge and opportunity to start a new town off the coast of Malaysia.

Admiral Cheng Ho 
 Over time, the town became an important centre of trade in the region, with the Chinese Admiral Cheng Ho helping to establish trade links with China.  Indeed, a gigantic statue of Cheng Ho stands proud just outside the museum where he can presumably oversee the activities around him. Relations with China were so good that a Chinese princess, Hang Li Po, eventually came to Malacca as the bride of the Sultan.   The museum traces, through paintings and dioramas, much of this early history of Malacca.  The heroes of this time - Hang Tuah and his "brothers" - are brought to life, as is the tragic tale of how the Sultanate eventually lost its fight against the Portuguese invaders.

The Portuguese of course gave way to the Dutch, and then the British came and took over Malacca.  Malacca became part of the Straits Settlements, together with Penang and Singapore.  Malacca subsequently played an important role in the dawning of political consciousness in Malaysia and Singapore, producing two men who would eventually play key roles in the newly independent countries of Malaysia and SIngapore. - Tan Siew Sin, who would eventually become the Finance Minister in Malaysia, and his second cousin, Goh Keng Swee, who would take up a similar role in Singapore. 

So much for the history - but how would this shape the people and community of Malacca?  Well, Hang Li Po was accompanied by her ladies in waiting.  Intermarriages between the ladies and the local community, and with new merchants from China, led to the beginning of the baba/Nonya community in Malaysia. The coming of the Portuguese, started off the Eurasian community.  

Chitty family at their baby's first month
hair-cutting ceremony
As the Portuguese came by way of Ceylon and Goa in South Asia, the Indian community began to grow together with quite a unique group of Chitty Peranakans - the product of intermarriages between the Indian migrants and the local Malay community.  Just like the Chinese Peranakans, the Chitties also adopted the language, dress and to some extent the practices and food of the local community.  More about this community can be found here.  Other than Malacca, I don't think that this particular Peranakan community had established deep roots in either Singapore or Penang, so it was a rare opportunity to learn more about them.  I especially enjoyed the video shown on the different communities, which featured the Chitties.  Used as I am to the Chinese Peranakan community, it was so interesting to see all the Indian Chitties wearing kebaya - reminded me of Racial Harmony Day in Singapore!  

The museum also contained that "must have" for any Peranakan museum - a wedding bed.  Of course, I prefer the one in Singapore's museum :-). 

In short I would recommend that new visitors to Malacca spend some time at the history and ethnographic museum.  It also gives admission to the Governor's House Museum and the Museum of Malay Literature, and brings visitors to the foot of St Paul's Church.  It's a good way to spend a hot and humid afternoon!

Aside from making my shoes and visiting the museum, I have to admit that it was otherwise the same-old, same-old, of eating and shopping. I've written so many posts and taken so many photos of my visits to Malacca over the years, that I really don't see the need to just contribute another food/shopping related post.  But in brief, we visited "Baba Charlie's" - where knowledgable locals and Singaporean visitors go for the best Nonya kueh-kueh (and sambal belacan), and revisited places like "Eleven" and various chendol outlets around the city.  We also tried out new places and even sampled a new food creation - Baba laksa kahwin nonya Assam laksa from Jonker 88 (that's the big photo in the photo collage of my Malacca eats below) - and gave this lighter curry with sour Assam undertones our blessings for a happy marriage.  Of course we visited our favourite goldsmith and didn't go away empty handed.  

Clockwise from top left: Baba laksa kahwin Nonya assam laksa, hotel breakfast, rojak, satay and Or Chien (oysters with egg - aka Or Luak in Singapore 

If interested, my older posts are here and Flickr photos here.

Saturday, June 11, 2016

Up in the clouds... My Sparkly Pink Pair of Kasut Manek

I took a trip down to Malacca last weekend. Having finished off my beading work, it was time to transform it into a pair of shoes.

My friend told me about a Singapore shoemaker. But said also that he was very busy, and as such could take some time to finish the shoes.  Impatient me, I could not wait.  And since we had this trip to Malacca lined up, I decided that I'd see if there was a shoemaker who could rush my order.  

Truth be told, I actually arranged my trip to Malacca partly also because I needed some push to finish off my shoes.  Well, it worked, didn't it?

The first shop we went to, sadly could not do it in time.  This meant that they would have to post it back to Singapore.  Not an option for someone who has spent six years beading her precious shoes and doesn't want to risk the shoes going astray.

Fortunately the next shop we found could do it in 48 hours, albeit at an express rate.  And the best part - it was in front of our hotel!  And they had this vibrant pink leather to pull the shoe together.   And the next day when we walked past the shop we saw the shoes in the process of being made.  It was an exciting moment!  

I was so pleased to pick them up the next day.  Don't they look absolutely gorgeous!

For reference, the shop is Wah Aik and it is along Heeren Street, aka Jalan Tun Tan Cheng Lock.

Saturday, May 14, 2016

Done at last! My 6-year beading odyssey

It is with great pride and happiness that I announce the completion of my kasut manek, or Nonya beaded shoes.  I started these off originally in early 2010, thinking that it would take me maybe a year to complete.  Little did I realise ...  ... I overestimated the amount of work available and the time I had to spend on this project.

Be it as it may, let me share the last sequence of photos recording the completion of this massive task.

The pattern I used was the "cloud forest" pattern.  The clouds are supposed to be in different colours but I decided to keep them all in pink, to go with my clothes (and one of my kebayas.

The full sequence of photos documenting my progress on the shoes can be found in this Flickr album.

The next step, of course, is to actually find a shoemaker to transform this into a pair of sparkly shoes!

Monday, April 11, 2016

Celebrating Easter

Whilst everyone in Singapore is enjoying a lazy long weekend, observant Catholics, on the other hand, spend a lot of it in church. Starting with Maundy Thursday, what with the washing of the feet and the holy hour (I skipped it this year), then the Good Friday service (2 hours long) and Easter Vigil (3.5 hours) on Saturday night.  Then we have a big Easter lunch on Easter Sunday to celebrate.  What with cooking and eating (and sleeping off the lunch), that's the whole weekend gone.  And this year, I decided to further eat into my weekend by making Hot Cross Buns on Saturday afternoon (they took me 4.5 hours, including the time for proving and baking, and tidying up).

Hot Cross Buns have always been associated with Easter, what with the symbolism of the cross, the spices in the bun and the bread, to be broken and shared.  But its first mention, according to the BBC no less, was in 1733 in that famous old ditty, "One a penny, two a penny, Hot Cross Buns". Clearly the buns had staying power as they are still around today.

I made my buns from a Paul Hollywood recipe, from his book "How to Bake".  You can however find a similar recipe hereTo be honest, I had tried making them last year but they were not very pretty and looked more like rock buns.  Fortunately, appearances were deceptive as certainly the buns were fluffy and soft on the inside.  My buns still weren't that pretty this year (I decided against the apricot jam glaze) but the cross is nice and clear.  What I like about it - the inclusion of the apple - its tart flavour contrasts with the sweetness of the bun and the dried fruit peel and sultanas.  

I managed to finish the buns just in time for a quick shower and a hurried dinner before rushing to Easter Vigil.  Need to go early, to get a good seat and before the church is plunged into darkness.  

Indeed, it is a special moment, the hush (at least it would be a hush if people weren't still coming into the darkened church and others weren't talking) in the church, just before the start of the Vigil.  Outside, the great fire is being lit, and from the fire, the Pascal candle is lit before being brought into the church.  And from this one candle, all our little candles are lit.  It's really such a beautiful moment, when all the church is slowly coming alight, and each of us contributes to it.  Then, we have the glory of the Exultet (beautifully sung by our MEP priest).

Here at Holy Family, also celebrate the baptism of adults entering the church.  And we get another round of candle lighting as the newly baptised too get their own candles.  It's a joyous moment, alleluia.

P.S.  Yes, I'm late with this post.  Easter Sunday was on 27th March 2016, some two weeks ago.  I've been busy!  


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