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The Museum

[Anecdotes from our Chinese New Year holiday in Malaysia]

One of my favourite childhood ‘playgrounds’ was the local state museum of Sabah.

When I was a child, entry was free for everyone. So every now and then we’d beg our mum…. “please, pleeeeease, can we go to the museum today?”. By some adult mysterious reasoning we could never guess or fathom, every now and then she would say okay.

I can remember the exact flow of almost every single display area almost by heart. From anthropology and natural history, to the ceramics display, all the way down to the local indigenous section. I enjoyed listening to my mum talk about the different artefacts on display. Then afterwards our favourite final stop was the heritage village with actual models of traditional longhouses where my brothers and I would revel in climbing up and down the ladders and running across the bamboo floors of all the different indigenous houses.

I was determined that my kids would share the same joy.


But as it often goes… reality does not always align with expectations.

“Mummy, it’s so hot!”

“This is boooooring!”

“My legs are tired!”

“I’m hungry!”

“Can we go home now?”

But being the little troopers they are, they duly followed me through all the different sections and displays and listen to me rattle on about the different artefacts and items of interest.

And it was not all that bad really. They were definitely interested in studying the lifelike animals on display in the natural history section, and venturing inside a life-sized model of a burial cave (“very spooky, mummy!”) and being weirded out by the display of human skulls in the headhunter’s gallery.


It was a very surreal feeling walking through all the familiar galleries and sections around the museum. The layout had remained almost completely unchanged since I last visited this place probably more than 20 years ago. My favourite section was always the ceramics gallery. I enjoyed studying the intricate patterns and designs of the ceramic pieces from all the different historical dynasties. Unfortunately I couldn’t do much of that this time round. This was one of the children’s least favourite section, although we did pause at a ceramic pillow on display which Nathan could not believe people actually used to sleep on.

Finally after navigating our way quickly through the remaining sections inside the museum building and adjoining block, we headed outside to the heritage village to look at the display of longhouses. We opted to cross over to the village via this suspension bridge. It was easily one of the safest suspension bridges I had walked across in my life. But to my urban Aussie kids, this was considered almost real jungle level adventure.


It had rained quite heavily the night before, so the ground was fairly muddy in some spots… which my kids did NOT care for at all and they expressed their displeasure very loudly. But when we finally were in sight of the heritage village, I think even they had to admit that those longhouses looked pretty cool.


They were eager to explore every single longhouse in the heritage village (despite the bother of having to step over the muddy spots) and Grace even tested out what it felt like to sleep on one of those pillow blocks like the ceramic one we saw inside the museum earlier (except this one was made from wood).

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Joy shared.


If you’re interested to find out more about visiting the Sabah state museum, I recommend the following sites:


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