S.E.A Aquarium (South East Asia Aquarium) located in Resorts World Sentosa, Singapore was once the largest aquarium in the world till China’s Chimelong Ocean Kingdom broke the record. More than 100,000 marine animals from 800 species are seen swimming in 45 million litres of water. The first thing you notice when you enter the aquarium is a large ship with a monitor. They have five minutes video introduction about the place and the journey of the silk route.
MARITIME SILK ROAD
Admiral Zheng explored South East Asia, South Asia, Middle East and East Africa during the era of Ming dynasty. Surprisingly Zheng He was not a Chinese rather he was born Muslim and was taken captive and trained as an imperial eunuch under the reign of Yongle Emperor. He was later promoted as a naval commander who negotiated trade pacts, fought against the pirates, installed puppet kings and thereby brought back tribute to Yongle Emperor in form of jewels, medicine, art facts and many more. He established a tributary system centered on the Middle Kingdom, along the maritime silk routes in the Indian Ocean. The S.E.A Aquarium depicts his journey and the route he followed along with the art facts he collected during the silk road. The journey starts with the fleet beginning from China Quanzhou port with silks, porcelains, precious gifts to trade for exotic products from other regions. The sequence of the ports in which the journey of maritime trade took place is depicted here with pictures:
Quanzhou Port China
Large porcelain pots and silks were seen on display
Qui Nhon, Vietnam
Vietnamese water puppet show is an art form that originated in 11th century in northern red river delta villages. Villagers performed puppet shows when the rice fields were flooded during the harvest.
Palembang Port, Indonesia
Batik prints were seen hanging from the top when we entered the port of Palembang. Statues performing traditional Sumatra dance were seen on one side of the gallery.
Precious stones, camphors, glassware, sandalwood were the goods traded in Malacca.
Port Galle, Sri Lanka
By 14th century, Port of Galle in Sri Lanka became a pivotal port on the Maritime Silk Route. Spices and Precious gems of the region attracted more foreign visitors like Zheng He and Marco Polo. According to the legend, King Solomon came to Galle for ivory, gems and peacocks with which he wooed the the Queen of Sheeba. Sri Lanka is also called the ‘gem island’ as it has lots of precious and semi precious stones. It is believed that Buddha left the imprint of his foot on a huge sapphire which is embedded on sacred mountain called Adam’s Peak.
Calicut accomodated the exchange between Indian Ocean and Persian Gulf regions to the west and South China sea countries to the east. Calicut’s religiously tolerant Hindu Zamorin rulers promoted the trade in the port. The China Nets ‘cheenavala’ is still used by the local fisherman in India. You notice handwoven south cotton sarees (also known as calico) hanging on the top and also spices like garam masala as part of the exhibits.
From Calicut, the ships would sail to the north, up to the Malabar Coast and then enter the Gulf of Oman via Arabian Sea.
Port of Malindi,on East Africa’s Swahili coast was probably found by the Arab traders. It was a walled city surrounded by orchards and farms. The area was originally inhabited by Bantu Africans. Later on due to the trade, other groups like Indians, Persians and Arabs slowly settled in the region. As a result of the interaction of different group of people, a distinct African culture was born. Swahili, the language spoken by the people of this place is actually a mix of Arabic, Bantu, Hindi and Persian. The word Swahili was derived from an Arabic word which meant “of the coast”. I noticed few exhibits of drums like bongo and djembe. Kenya has a rich tradition of music tied to the ritual celebrations of nature like harvest and rain. As part of these musical traditions, the people of Kenya carved hollow wooden logs into desired shape. An animal skin is then stretched over the top. The thickness of the skin gives the drum its musical range.
After the Maritime Silk Route Museum, we walked into the Typhoon Theatre. The visit to this Theatre does not come along with the purchase of S.E.A Aquarium ticket. The ticket cost for Typhoon Theatre experience is $2.00. While you proceed towards the Theatre, you notice Jewel of Muscat which is actually a gift from the government of Oman to Singapore. The crew sailed to Singapore in this Dhow using only the traditional navigational equipment. It is beautifully constructed without using any pegs or nails.
The show begins with an introduction story where a sailor is entrusted with a mission to deliver a golden cup to Oman via sea. Despite warnings from astrologers and other sailors about the bad weather, he still proceeds with the journey resulting in a ship wreck. We were made to sit in a circular theatre with projections of fog and lighting effects surrounding us. The audience is made to relive the story and is made to believe that they are part of the journey along with the sailor. During bad weather conditions and storm, we experience light drizzles and chill air in the theatre to mimic the same experience we see on the screen. Photography is strictly banned during the show. The experience is worth visiting. The show ends with the ship sinking in the ocean and the sailors losing the golden cup and getting drowned. The show lasts for hardly 5-6 minutes. After the show you walk out of the theatre into the hallway where you see a gigantic aquarium tank with the sunken ship as shown in the movie.
The actual aquarium starts from this point! We entered the Shark Seas to see man eating sharks swimming on top of our head. Different variety of marine life like lion fishes with fins like the mane of the lion, octopus, gigantic crabs, sea horses, manta rays, starfish, golden fishes, various jelly fishes and lovely coral reefs are a treat to watch. The most popular sections of the aquarium was shark seas and jelly fish. People were literally stuck like a jelly bean on the glass panels where the jelly fish glowed in vibrant orange color. They also had a discovery center where people can touch few of the marine animals like star fish. I walked past each of them capturing the best of their moments in my camera till I reached an interesting section. It read as “Transsexual Fishes”? I again read it thinking that I might have misread some information. Moon Wrasse is a fish which actually change sex throughout their life! Interesting. Now this is what I call a real Aquarium with blend of all variations like in real world. Overall the trip to the South East Asian Aquarium was good especially the Typhoon Theatre Experience.
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