The Malay Village of Geylang Serai, built in 1989, sits on a one hectare area about the size of two football fields. Completed with rows of replica Malay kampong houses, it is a museum-styled exhibition site which showcases the lifestyle of the local Malays before the sixties.
The objective of the Malay Village is to preserve the Malay heritage and promote Malay cultural activities, with displays of traditional costumes, musical instruments and tools. Other than restaurants specialised in authentic Malay cuisines, there are also dozens of shops selling handicrafts, souvenirs and herbs.
Visitors to the Malay Village can also view traditional dances, wedding rituals and plays, which are held at 630pm everyday. The daily opening hours are from 10am to 10pm, and the cost of admission is $5 per person.
Costing $10 million and three years of construction, the Malay Village created buzz of excitement at first but somehow business was not as good as expected. The management changed hands several times, and by 2006, it was running into huge losses.
In 2008, the Urban Redevelopment Authority (URA) announced that the Malay Village will be demolished when its lease expires in 2011. Despite many appeals and petitions to save the site, the Malay Village is officially to be shut down on 26 September 2011, bringing down the curtains of its 23 years of history.
Standing in its place will be a new civic centre called Wisma Geylang Serai. It will be housing a community club and a Malay Heritage Gallery and is expected to be completed in 2016.
The name Geylang Serai was derived from kilang and serai, which mean factory and lemon grass in Malay respectively. But the area was more than lemon grass plantations in the past; coconut, rubber and tapioca plantations also flourished, which was why part of Geylang Serai was named Kampong Ubi (ubi is tapioca in Malay).
Published: 16 September 2011