Sunday, April 14, 2013

The Maritime Experiential Museum & its Amazing Typhoon Theatre [海事博物馆及水族馆] @ Resort World Sentosa

The Maritime Experiential Museum was initially a separate ticketed attraction but with the launch of S.E.A Aquarium (the world's largest aquarium), the museum is now packaged as a two-attraction day pass for visitors. 

This would not make any economic sense to historical maritime buffs although on the P&L sheet, many of us have heard that it was in the red. Nonetheless, i am going to start with The Maritime Experiential Museum first. 

Enter and be greeted by the bow of what appeared to be a gigantic ancient ship known as Treasure Ship (宝船); which was part of the Zheng He exhibit and definitely the most impressive one. 

Admiral Zheng He, a eunuch from the Ming Dynasty, commanded seven expeditions to the Indian Ocean - one of which had an unthinkable (at least for that era) fleet of 27,800 men and over 250 ships!

For better visual representations on how stunning the sight could be, you may check out the numerous floating models that "sailed" alongside the treasure ship. 

Part of the area was actually open to the general public. Stay a bit longer in the air-conditioned compound and wait for the fearsome lion figurehead to spew smoke. 

What follows shortly was a complimentary video show on Zheng He and his famous voyages!

Tickets were required from this point onward. As you might have guessed by now, this is a maritime journey traversing through the marketplaces (known as souks in the middle east) of various ports of call undertaken by the Zheng He fleet. 

Qui Nhon of the Champa Kingdom (of current day Vietnam) was the first stop.

Besides the signature nón lá (those conical hats), Qui Nhon offered other trading commodities of interest to other countries, like lotus seeds!

Palembang on the Sumatra Island of current day Indonesia. There were many life-like mannequins to be your photographic companion even though it can be hard to grab one on a weekend.

Galle of Sri Lanka - i didn't know Sri Lanka has the highest density of gem deposits in the world! 

Calicut, officially known as Kozhikode [India] - be charmed by the snake charmers! Come to think of it, i just realised from the above photograph that the flute was gone! Bloody inconsiderate visitors!
The lucrative spice trade in India was the driving force for the eventual colonisation of this spice rich nation. 

Muscat [Oman] - another important port in the ancient times. By the way, the above shoes are called woven shoes, not Aladdin shoes! Haha

Manlindi [Kenya] with its supply of leather from animals found nowhere else except in Africa. 

Interesting the race appeared to be although the Gang of Four could hardly wait to view the largest aquarium in the whole wide world! Add in the weekend crowd and you know it is impossible to complete it! 

Warning board and do's and dont's of the Typhoon Theatre. On weekends, this would be a separately paid admission (at S$10). Rule of the thumb - go on weekdays to make full use of your hard earned money.

More exhibits beyond the gantry of the theatre! As it was a weekend and Typhoon Theatre being a paid admission, there were comparatively much lesser people in this compound.

This means we can take our time to explore the interactive exhibits like the one above! It was a celestial navigation device using the star (that white dot on the war), the horizon and that palm-shaped wood block. 

Cross section of the same Treasure Ship we saw in the beginning! In the modern times, such squeezed housing for rhinoceros would likely warrant a letter of complaint from SPCA and global protests.

Jewel of Muscat - an actual Arabian dhow based on the design of a 1,200 years old shipwreck that was reproduced in 2010 and sailed from Oman to Singapore as a gift from the Sultanate of Oman! 

Its first journey was likely its last journey since the Jewel of Muscat was the centrepiece for the maritime museum; a pity visitors were not allowed to climb aboard. :( 

Anyway, the story in the Typhoon Theatre [台风剧场] was set during the Tang Dynasty (or was it the Ming?) when the marine route was much preferred over the dangerous route via the Silk road. 

Let's watch a pre-theatrical video (basically, this family needed to sent a royal gift to another country and a typhoon hit them during the journey) before entering the dome-shaped theatre. The rule on no picture taking was strictly enforced. No matter what, the show blew me away! 

Words cannot explicitly express how good it was! Notice another door right above the door where everyone was exiting? That was the entrance to the theatre. For more details, pay a visit to the Typhoon Theatre and experience it personally!

Guess what was the scene that met us when we exited the theatre? 

An enormous aquarium featuring a shipwreck; a direct link to the storyline we just experienced in the Typhoon Theatre and an indirect reference to the close by S.E.A Aquarium.

Everyone was marveling at the nice surprise and was busy taking photographs! 

Sadly, the viewing panel rapidly hyped up the excitement to visit the S.E.A Aquarium and even though there was more to the maritime museum; most people gave it a miss. 

A real pity as the connecting gallery between the Typhoon Theatre and S.E.A Aquarium housed the maritime archaeology gallery and antique collection from the 15th century Bakau Shipwreck. 

Oh well, i shall have a closer look the next time i visit with my parents! 

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