Schlagwort-Archiv: Singapore

Singapore, 15 July 1893

According to a telegram received today from Coudenhove the Siamese minister for foreign affairs had declared that all measures had been taken to receive me in the best manner possible but at the moment there existed no certainty in Siam about the further development of the current complications. Therefore I decided with a heavy heart to take the higher diplomatic considerations into account and forgo the chance to gain in a stay, even if only a brief one, some insight about the state of the kingdom of Siam — a state it would have been of the highest interest to learn more about even if only furtively.

The homeland of a thousand year old civilization combining autochthonous elements with Indian and Chinese forms, Siam is the sole still independent kingdom of the South East Asian peninsula that has managed to preserve the character of oriental autocracy in pure form. The territory of the „lord of the white elephants“ had managed to stay out of the spheres of influence of the European states up to now and be open to European influence only as far as that was achievable without harming the national peculiarities.

The visit to the royal court of Siam, seeing the strange luxurious architecture that Bangkok offers in its temples and palace rooms as „Asia’s Venice“, observing Siamese culture, art and customs as well as hunting in the hilly woods and swamps of the country that will certainly be rewarding for my eagerly growing collections — all this and a number of beautiful, educational and hunting days became the victim of international entanglements.

My tropical fever hindered me also today to go on land. While at the beginning I was forced to stay in bed which was extremely uncomfortable due to the terrible heat in the cabins, I managed now to rest on a chaise longue on the afterdeck castle or on the iron deck and thus enjoy the refreshing air cool the high temperature.

The recovery from tropical fever and the abatement of the weakness connected to it is retarded by two factors as long as the ill person is on board of a ship: The first factor is the suffering caused by the heat for which there are fewer countermeasures available on board than on land. Secondly, it is difficult to prepare the necessary invigorating food on board. The tropical fever leads to a complete bodily weakness, despite the best care and food, so that the level of activity of an ill person is similar to that of a housefly in autumn. While the physical condition of an ill person amounts to a total weakness of all the body’s forces, the psychic condition is such that there are frequent changes from total passivity to keyed up nervousness. The resulting depressive spirit will cause, after intervals of absolute passivity, a mood in the ill person that makes interacting with him nothing less than interesting for persons in proximity.

My gentlemen had done some shopping for me in the city and among else restocked the menagerie as death had recently produced quite a few important empty spots. A part of our animals also was set to be sent home on board of the just departing (Austrian) Lloyd’s steamboat „Vindobona“. As a replacement I had bought 14 monkeys which climbed up the yards and shrouds or outboards into the battery. Two of these four limbed animals just used the first moment of their golden liberty to enter the cabins of the first lieutenant and the chief engineer and produce such a chaos there that it looked in there like the aftermath of a heavy storm. One of the wrongdoers was caught when it, having completed the work of destruction, admired itself self-satisfied in the mirror after using plenty of the toiletteries laying around.

When the sun set, I had already lost the last hope to visit Bangkok and buried it in the endless sea.


  • Location: Singapore
  • ANNO – on 15.07.1893 in Austria’s newspapers.
  • The k.u.k. Hof-Burgtheater is playing „Hamlet“. The k.u.k. Hof-Operntheater is closed from 1 June to 19 July.
Not content with misinforming its readers about FF's stay in Siam, the Salonblatt adds an imaginative but wrong impression of the meeting.

Not content with misinforming its readers about FF’s stay in Siam, the Salonblatt adds an imaginative but wrong impression of the meeting.

Singapore, 14 July 1893

Unfortunately, Job’s news arrived in form of a telegram out of Bangkok announcing that the arrival of two French cruisers at the estuary had caused great commotion and there was now uncertainty what could happen as a consequence of the French action. I immediately had sent another telegram to Coudenhove in order to obtain the utmost achievable clarity about the possibility of our visit in Bangkok.

In the afternoon the commander informed us about a note from the British gunboat HMS „Pigmy“ which stated that two French ships had forced their way into Menam and an engagement happened at Paknam.

We stayed again in the roads, this time to load provisions and to await news from Siam as we still had hope that events would take a different turn at the last moment and yet permit a visit of Bangkok.

Some newspaper from Austria and the German Empire that we had managed to procure from a club in Singapore were eagerly devoured.


  • Location: Singapore
  • ANNO – on 14.07.1893 in Austria’s newspapers.
  • The k.u.k. Hof-Burgtheater is playing „Die Journalisten“. The k.u.k. Hof-Operntheater is closed from 1 June to 19 July.
The Wiener Salonblatt No, 29 tells it readers that FF has arrived in Singapore but does not mention his illness. It, however, knows that FF will spend the next two weeks in Siam.

The Wiener Salonblatt No, 29 tells it readers that FF has arrived in Singapore but does not mention his illness. It, however, knows that FF will spend the next two weeks in Siam.

Singapore, 13 July 1893

Today a steamer in the new harbor made room for us and so we could start loading coal. This happened very quickly, thanks to the assistance of Chinese coolies, so that, in a single day, we had loaded the required reserve on board.


  • Location: Singapore
  • ANNO – on 13.07.1893 in Austria’s newspapers.
  • The k.u.k. Hof-Burgtheater is playing „Vater und Sohn“. The k.u.k. Hof-Operntheater is closed from 1 June to 19 July.

Singapore, 12 July 1893

At 4 o’clock the light beacon of Horsburgh became visible and at a quarter before 9 o’clock the anchors were dropped in the roads of Singapore.

The Belgian consul general M. J. de Bernard de Fauconval, still representing our consular affairs here, representatives from the English government and suppliers soon brought messages from Europe on board that were immediately reported to me in my sick bed.

The last messages we received from home, namely in Sydney, dated from the start of the month of April and the most recent Viennese newspapers carried the date of 6 April. Since then, we had been left without news, apparently due to misdirection of the mail. During our long journey through the Melanesian islands to Singapore, we had constantly guessed when and where we would encounter our mail. Before each call at a harbor in which the mail might have been waiting for us, our expectations about this served as a general topic of conversation and the commissary officer was overwhelmed with questions about the higher or lower probability of satisfying our hopes and was blamed, in advance, for any disappointments. Unfortunately, the latter did occur!

We had heavily counted upon to find a mail package already in Thursday Island or, for instance, in Amboina — but each time in vain! How bitter it is to travel for four and a half months without receiving even the tiniest news from home can only be appreciated by those who can feel the joy in the hearts of those, thousands of miles away from home, who receive a new voluminous mail package on board — a mail package that contains letters and with them the assurance that many a dear being at home has not forgotten the distant traveller.

Some of the messages brought on board by the consul general were in way positive. Apart from the rumor that a revolution had occurred in Paris and the information that the English admiral’s ship „Victoria“ did sink with a loss of life in the waves of over 400 brave sailors, we were informed that the political situation in Siam was now in a state that it was questionable whether it was a sound idea for us to pay a visit to Bangkok. It was said that the French government talked about setting up a blockade and that the Siamese thought about resisting energetically and had already blocked the river Menam with ships sunk for that purpose. Multiple French troop transport ships and gun boats had been rushed there. Given the tense situation, a declaration of war could happen at any moment.

I immediately telegraphed Coudenhove, legation secretary of our embassy in Tokyo staying in Bangkok, to send authentic information about the recent entanglements. He answered however that the King of Siam was definitely expecting my visit. During the day, a Siamese officer named Luang Visadh Parihar came on board on behalf of his government to seek information about my intentions, and this messenger was announced our probable arrival in Bangkok.

During the day we had to remain in the roads as the New Harbor where coal is usually loaded was so overcrowded with ships that we could not enter.


  • Location: Singapore
  • ANNO – on 12.07.1893 in Austria’s newspapers.
  • The k.u.k. Hof-Burgtheater is playing „Die guten Freunde“. The k.u.k. Hof-Operntheater is closed from 1 June to 19 July.

Singapore, 8 April 1893

First thing in the morning, I examined closely a collection of ethnographic objects from New Guinea, Sumatra, Nias and Borneo that a former captain of the merchant fleet had assembled. After prolonged negotiations I bought the whole collection. It contains interesting objects of great ethnographic value, especially primitive weapons built without iron or other metals. Also jewellery, daggers and knives made out of human bone, a series of carved ancestral portraits that serve on Nias to mark holy places, as well as countless fetishes, domestic, fishing and hunting tools etc.

While Wurmbrand and Clam arranged the packaging of the objects, I did some more shopping driving in a rickshaw from shop to shop. I also added two very lovely monkeys and some parrots to the menagerie on board.

Doing business in the hot zone may drive a European with even a very calm temper to a mild despair. The inescapable endless negotiating and bargaining causes a horrible waste of time. Buying a hat or a pair of shoes will thus become an earnest undertaking that can not be completed in less than two hours. My purchasing used up the entire morning, namely as I could not rely on the participation of the consul general who had not been informed about it and I finally asked the Lloyd’s agent for help.

Returned on board at noon, I sent out some boats to embark the ethnographic collection in time on board. The rest of the day was spent in saying good-bye and preparations for the journey to Java and the expedition there.


  • Location: Singapore
  • ANNO – on 08.04.1893 in Austria’s newspapers. The Wiener Salonblatt of 9 April notes the arrival of Franz Ferdinand in Singapore.
  • The k.u.k. Hof-Burgtheater is playing „Fromont junior und Risler senior“, while the k.u.k. Hof-Operntheater is performing the opera „Die Jüdin“.

Johor to Singapore, 7 April 1893

For today it was planned to visit Johor, the capital and residence of the sultanate Johor founded in 1859 by sultan Abu Bekr. In the sultan’s absence the heir apparent had invited me to enter the interesting kingdom of the sovereign Malay sultanate of Johor and after seeing the sights to hunt close to the city in the afternoon.

Accompanied by the Belgian consul general, my entourage and several gentlemen from the staff of „Elisabeth“ we set out of Singapore early in the morning in carriages. As the heat was not yet suffocating, the drive was very pleasant. On an excellent road we crossed the whole island of Singapore, first alongside the numerous parks of the city of villas and then through jungles and primal forests.

Astonished and captivated, our eyes were locked to the marvels which nature produced in its blooming children. While I might call the prevalence of palm and banian trees as characteristic for Ceylon, here there was a colorful changing variety of views. Bamboos, mango and durian trees line the road; behind them stand coffee and pepper trees. Then follows jungle out of whose impenetrable thickets sago and areka palm trees were rising as well as tree ferns. Numerous small Malay and Chinese settlements add lively colors to the rich green of the landscape.

The drive took around two hours to finally arrive at the end of the island and we could see the city of Johor in front of us, only separated by the small water road of Salat Tabras. The first sight of Johor is very charming. Out of a deep-blue sea rise green hills, on the left criss-crossed by the stream Sungei Tschat and ornamented like a park and crowned with bungalows. In the middle was Istana Laut, the sultan’s palace; on the right government buildings and the former seraglio of the sultan. On the left the small blooming city with its light red brick roofs. In between copses of trees an green meadows. Truly, if we didn’t know that a sea strait was in front of us, one might think of being at the friendly shore of an interior lake.

On the landing pier on the other shore we were received by two nephews of the sultan and I was escorted on a lovely barge to Johor’s shore where the first minister as well as all dignitaries and Europeans present were assembled. A pretty steam yacht of the sultan was anchored there. On foot we went to the palace where the heir apparent, a tall 18-year-old young man with a very sympathetic mien as well as a younger brother of the sultan received us. The palace is a long two story building whose exterior is without ornamentation while the interior has been decorated more tastefully and comfortably than the palace in Singapore. There is no shortage of guest rooms as the sultan is extremely hospitable  and every European who arrives in Singapore, especially if he is a naval officer, is highly welcome to visit him.

In a vestibule of the Istana, tea was served and the program of the day discussed. The key persons apparently were not completely in agreement about it. At the court of the sultan, multiple Europeans who had had a very lively past and must not have lived in peace with their neighbors but had explored their differences and pursued their own interests tried to gain a decisive influence upon the sultan. Among them lives a Swiss who has now a coffee plantation of the sultan’s and served as an organizer and interpreter during our stay. Besides other British persons, there was a Scot who had come to Johor as an engineer and now possessed a large steam saw.

The heir apparent seems to be under the influence of these strangers even though he otherwise exhibited a decisive character. He has been in that rank for only a short time as the sultan had earlier designated another of his relatives who was being educated in England as his heir but had declared this for void without much circumstance when the relative did not develop according to the sultan’s wishes and named him chief of police while the current heir was designated to be the successor to the kingdom of Johor.

After the conclusion of the discussion about the day’s activities a drive in a steam boat was undertaken and namely in the estuary which separates Singapore from the mainland. Firstly the ship drove alongside a small city, then past many plantations and finally we steered in between the jungle that reaches on both sides to the shore and forms a lovely frame for the sea strait.

Then followed a rich breakfast during which I had the opportunity to admire the golden table fittings and the golden tableware — opulently equipped luxuries of the goldsmith’s art which the sultan had had made in England. The household of Johor is generally equipped with the greatest luxury what, it is said, has led to an overburdening of the civil list of this ruler in combination with the other very expensive habits of sultan Abu Bekr. In a clever calculation of its own advantage, England knows, it is claimed, to keep its ward out of financial misery time and again.

The sultanate of Johor contains 24.850 km2 with around 300.000 inhabitants, among them 210.000 Chinese, and is thanks to the English participation very well administered.  The main sources of income of the government are from the importation of opium and alcoholic beverages as well as the export duties upon gambir, pepper and other agricultural products which by the way is the only tax the inhabitants of Joho have to contribute to.

The interior of Johor is covered with thick tropical jungle whether it is swampland or hilly terrain or mountain. Due to the influence of the nearly daily rain, the strong dew and the great humidity, one can find here a rich evergreen vegetation.

Palms such as the sugar rich Cabong palm, the coconut, the Sagound, the Areka palm trees and the gutta percha trees (Isonandra gutta), camphor trees (Camphora officinalis) and excellent wood for construction providing large tree trunks of the virgin forest are characteristic for the forest zone. Bushes that supply resin, oil and poison constitute the undergrowth of the jungles. The cultivated land is used especially for the production of rice, maize, namely however for pepper and catechin, the extract from the branches of the gambir bush (Uncaria Gambir), a Rubiacee, that contained a tanning agent.

The intense cultivation of pepper and catechin-gamber which is by preference done in the North-western province of Muar almost completely by Chinese is expressed in Johor’s exports as the two named products are the most important export goods. Imported is mainly rice, the main staple of the population.

Up to now only a few parcels have been converted to cultivation. The forests are in many places not and in the others only irrationally exploited, with the result that Johor’s jungles still contain many apes of the Gibbon family (Hylobates), then Semnopithecus obscurus etc., and also scattered elephants, rhinos, tapirs, bisons (Gaur), bears and even Malaysian tigers, as well as sambar deer and the small Kijangs (Cervus muntjac), then crocodiles, snakes and finally many birds.

The mineral wealth of Johor are still not explored with the exception of tin of which the whole Malaysian peninsula is especially rich as well as gold. The latter one is especially found around Ophir (Gunong Ledang), the tallest mountain in the territory of Johor, whose sharply rising peak we had already seen from the sea on April 5th.

All in all the sultanate of Johor which had entered into history as one of the tributary states of the once so mighty sultanate of Malacca but then had fought and achieved its independence and managed to keep its sovereignty to the present day, offered a very favorable terrain for the tasks of modern cultivation. Under Abu Bekr administration, culture and trade of Johor had made decisive progress on the way which alone can provide this small but richly furnished and favorably located country with enduring prosperity.

A deer and boar hunt was planned and thus we drove, having enjoyed the culinary fruits of Johor, on an excellent road inland across a very pretty landscape with numerous nice Malay settlements in whose small gardens the purging croton (Croton tiglium) formed the main ornament. We drove comfortably and rapidly. The carriages and the horse teams especially were excellent as the horse loving sultan had imported among others also a pair of outstanding horses from our country. We stopped at a police station, where the hunting party was expecting us led by the brother of the sultan, a very well nourished gentleman, as well as the deposed heir to the throne — two reportedly proficient hunters.

After a long discussion it was decided that we should take up position in an extended line while the drivers already in position would march through the jungle towards us with their dogs. Behind us they had formed some kind of net made out of bast slings which was intended to catch any escaping, wounded or missed game. Thus we stood in intervals of 50 paces each in the middle of tall grass and thick ferns with little open ground and were waiting for action. Hour upon hour passed and nothing appeared beyond a huge pouring rain that came down upon us with flash and thunder and restricted our view to a few paces and soaked our clothes within minutes.

The current and the former heirs as well as the sultan’s brother stood behind me soaking wet and finally declared that probably no game would come close to us now and thus it was better to return home. I quickly concurred and we were soon back at the police station where the organizers apologized for the failure and explained that they did not have sufficient time for the preparation for a more successful hunt. Despite our message that my arrival was imminent in Singapore and Johor five weeks ago, the Belgian consul general is said to have informed the court of Johor only recently about my visit, possibly because he had been constrained by having to represent four governments at the same time. The consul general also had not participated in the hunt but had asked me to use the time for a visit to the state prison, so that he failed to get his share of the downpour.

During the return drive I enjoyed the company of the heir apparent who told with delight about his time in Vienna which he had visited a short time ago as well about Frankfurt am Main where he had stayed for half a year. The sultan is very keen on Western culture and tends to send his relatives to Europe to obtain an education.

The gala dinner in the palace was attended by us, the prince, a large number of dignitaries and the prince of Pahang deposed by the English. This formerly independent prince of a kingdom of 25.900 km2 at the northern border of Johor had been simply dispossessed by the English because of alleged riots in his country and angry and sulking, he had retired to Johor where a marriage between his daughter and our host was to take place on the particular wish of the sultan of Johor; but the prince does not seem to agree to this plan and seemed for the present to be reluctant to agree. At the dinner I sat beside the prime minister, a friendly and knowledgeable old fellow with whom I had a good conversation thanks to the interpreter. He knew much about our country and about all our officers on the mission ships of our navy which had been guests here. In the absence of the ruler he is in charge of the government and is said to be a competent and active man.

The golden fittings which decorated the table were, if that was even possible, even more valuable and more splendid than those I had admired in the morning.. A rather good private orchestra of the sultan provided the musical entertainment and just after the dinner accompanied the Malaysian dances in which boys in girls‘ dresses were turning around in a circle as the female sex was excluded from public dances according to the ruling customs here. The spectacle was by the way rather without interest even though the poor boys gave their best.

After I had taken a heartfelt leave from the prince and the gentlemen in Johor, I visited also a Chinese gambling den which had been formerly established in Singapore and now was suffered here more than licensed to set up shop here. The Chinese enjoy gambling with a true passion, sacrificing the fruits of hard work and move on all holidays in whole caravans from Singapore to the gambling den in Johor. The gambling hall is rather cleanly equipped. At its side is a restaurant and an opium den. The game is a simple game of chance as one wagers upon four numbers and decides the game by a throw of a die.

As a dedicated enemy of games of chance who by the way neither finds entertainment nor interest in it, I received in this gambling den a truly vile impression. Nevertheless we tried our luck and returned in a splendid, mild tropical night on the same way we had come in the morning, minus the loss of a few dollars, on board of „Elisabeth“ where we arrived late in the evening.


  • Location: Singapore
  • ANNO – on 07.04.1893 in Austria’s newspapers.
  • The k.u.k. Hof-Burgtheater is playing a comedy „Verbot und Befehl“, while the k.u.k. Hof-Operntheater is performing Richard Wagner’s opera „Die Walküre“.

Singapore, 6 April 1893

Towards 5 o’clock in the morning I was woken by a heavy storm that was unloading itself with force. One clap of thunder followed the other; the rain poured down so densely that one could not see beyond a few steps and the commander was forced to anchor near Alligator Island by the lighting fire of Raffles Island. As one could not think of sleep under such circumstances, I went up to the bridge and enjoyed the elementary spectacle amidst the pouring rain. Half an hour later, the wind relented and soon the blue sky started gleaming so that we could resume our journey.

In the far distance one could see on the right the shape of Sumatra, while on the left the Malacca peninsula and small islands accompanied us. Finally a signal station appeared in the morning mist, some ships and then more and more the largest buildings of Singapore. The pilot came on board and guided us to the wharf where we anchored about 1.5 miles from land.

Just thereafter appeared the substitute for our own vacationing consul, the Belgian consul general M. J. de Bernard de Fauconval, with the message that cholera was raging rather heavily in Singapore and that this malicious illness has already picked its victims among the Europeans and finally that no large hunts could be undertaken at the sultan of Johor, because the ruler had himself departed for Karlsbad and the season was not considered favorable for hunting.

I originally had the intention to stay a few days in Johor as the excellent hunting grounds and the hospitality of the sultan had been much praised to me, but decided obviously in view of this bad messages to stay in Singapore only as long as was necessary to get to know the city and its surroundings, to undertake a trip to Johor nearby and to replenish the ship with coal in order ton continue the journey to Batavia.

Now a number of visits started. First of all came the governor of the Straits Settlements, Sir Cecil Clementi Smith, and after him the commander of the Siamese yacht „Ubon Burathid“. He was accompanied by an acquaintance from Vienna who served as an interpreter, a common figure in Vienna’s Ringstraße and the racecourse in Freudenau, the Siamese Nai Glinn, who had served for quite some time as a lieutenant in the 7th Dragoon regiment and had only recently returned home, only to depart soon to Berlin to serve as a military attaché as he told me.  I was very pleased to see Nai Glinn again — he now is a captain and calls himself Luang Salyooth. He appeared dressed in the full dress uniform of a lieutenant of the Lorraine Dragoons in order to receive information when I would be willing to receive the half-brother of the king of Siam sent here to greet me.

With the Dutch consul general G. Lavino, I set the program for my stay in Java after long negotiations. The program then was immediately telegraphed to Batavia.

Just thereafter I received the half-brother of the ruling king of Siam, Prince Bidyalab Briddhi Dhata who had arrived three days before on the yacht „Ubon Burathid“. The prince who is distinguished by his intelligent mien appeared with a large entourage of dignitaries among them a cousin of the king, Prince Prabakorn, and besides our friend Nai Glinn also Captain Mom Radschawongse Krob who was attached three years ago to the 11th Hussars in Vienna as a lieutenant. In my cabin where Prince Bidyalab presented me with a letter of the king we had a long conversation translated by Nai Glinn.

The prince’s mission was intended to convince me to come directly from Singapore to Siam and postpone my journey to Java as well as Australia to a later date,  as the coming rainy season put the hunts and namely the capture of elephants into question. To my regret I had to restrict myself to offer thanks to the king and express my disappointment that the chosen route could not be changed at that moment. The prince seemed to be not very pleased about the failure of his diplomatic mission and left the ship after the exchange of some courtesies to the sound of the guns as well as the music of the Siamese anthem.

I then went on board of the prince’s yacht but did not meet neither the prince nor one of his officers but only a Siamese NCO who did not understand what we wanted.

In the afternoon a launch transported me onto the land to visit the city of Singapore. Singapore, the „city of lions“, today a metropolis and crossing point of the most important shipping lines of the Indian and Pacific Oceans has quickly risen to become the center of the transit trade between Australia, East Asia, Polynesia, India on the one hand and Europe on the other.

After the return of Java to the Dutch in 1815, the English turned their eyes to the southern end of the Asiatic mainland, in order to find a replacement for this splendid possession, to the foot of the Malacca peninsula which can justly be said to be very advantageous both from a strategic and commercial point of view. First Sir Thomas Stamford Raffles, formerly governor of the English East India Company on Java managed to receive the permission in 1819 from the government of the sultan of Johor to found a British settlement on the island of Singapore. In 1824 the island became a possession of the East India Company by acquisition,  in 1867 a new treaty transferred its possession to the British crown.

The island of Singapore is 43 km long and 23 km wide and also contains within its territory 70 further small islands. It is separated by the water route of Salat Tabras from the mainland which is part of the sultanate Johor at the southern tip of the Malaysian peninsula. The water route is on average around 1 to 1.5 km wide and encompasses the northern half of the island in the form of a semi-circle around 55 km long. Thus very close to the mainland opposite it, the island shares its geological structure. Sandstone and granite provide the foundation, fertile alluvia the cover of the island. Hill lands crisscrossed by streams alternate with areas that used to be covered by jungles and swamps and have today been turned to a large extent into cultivated areas. On the former swampland and jungle grow now embedded in luxurious vegetation tropical field and tree fruits in such a quantity that Singapore justly bears its Malayan name of „Tamsak“, that is „garden of love“.

Out of the swamps rose the city of Singapore which the English have set out in 1819 at the south coast of the island at the location of the ancient Singhapura which had sunken down to the condition of a poor fishing village. Declared a free-harbor and quickly populated, the new city prospered quickly thanks to its excellent anchoring spots and the incomparable geographic and commercial location. Even quicker as the English held continuously fast to their long-term ambitions to turn an important part, about three fifth of the Malaysian peninsula, into partly protectorates, partly into direct possessions, the latter under the name of Straits Settlements, to become a part of their zone of influence.

The Malaysian protectorates to which the sovereign sultanate of Johor also belongs cover an area of 86.000 km2 with 605.000 inhabitants. The direct possessions, namely the islands of Penang and Singapore as well as some areas on the Malaysian peninsula, cover an area of 3998 km2 and count 512.342 inhabitants. Of this Singapore island alone accounts for 555 km2 and 184.554 inhabitants, so that this island occupied in 1819 only by a few fishing families and the retreat of Malaysian pirates now has a density today of 333 inhabitants per square kilometer — certainly a great development!

The Straits Settlements are under a governor who is at the same time commander-in-chief of the soldiers and in charge of the admiralty court. He is also responsible for the relations of England with its protectorates. His residence is in Singapore.

The commercial importance of Singapore which accounts for the lion’s share of trade is highlighted by the following numbers: In the year 1891 the value of imports was 254,182.631 fl. in Austrian currency, that of the exports 226,332.632 fl. in Austrian currency. In the same year the number of arriving high sea ships was 4184 with 3,324.680 t and that of the coastal vessels 7293 with 260.672 t. Truly during our arrival at the old dock, the anchoring spot for small and large ships, the new harbor with its docks and  wharf, the piers and the landing bridges were brimming with life. Especially the new harbor was filled with scenes of uninterrupted busy activity on the one hand from Singapore island and on the other hand from the six meter deep channel between the islands of Blakan-Mati and Ayerbrani to the establishment of the Peninsular and Oriental Steam Navigation Company and the docks. Without interruption, large steam boats arrived and departed. Everywhere goods were cleared, coal replenished and most diverse local vessels, large Malaysian praus, Chinese junks and the small canoes of the Sundanese were busily rushing around from here to there.

Equally lively are the activities on the long landing bridge Johnston Pier, as well as the neighboring streets of the European quarter where the merchant houses, shops, public buildings, hotels and clubs of the Europeans were located. Here alongside the waterfront, next to the docks, around the magazines runs a colorful stream of humans of all peoples and races.

Even more original is the view offered in the southern part of the city, in the actual business district as well as the quarter of the natives and the Chinese. Malabares of the Dravidian tribe but of Malaysian tongue; Tamils, here called Klings, Hindus from the southern coast of continental India; Malays, the aboriginals of Singapore; Chinese who make up today more than half of all inhabitants of the island: each of these groups is settled in Singapore in their own special quarters.

The main part of the non-European population of the city are the Chinese; these have settled here from the foundation of Singapore and live in the southwestern part of the city beyond the Singapore river in a special quarter which is immediately recognizable by its sky-blue painted houses, the numerous Chinese scriptures at their front and many other things.

There always is a great commotion, the commercial activity, the industriousness the sons of the Middle Kingdom call their own. Not an instance are they idle. Without interruption do they work, trade and negotiate. In the midst of the flow of business they recover in the tea and opium dens between the shops or in the open theaters set up nearby where there are spectacles during the whole day.

Not far from the Chinese quarter are the ones of the Indians and Malays. Around the area oriented towards the land extend the Chinese and the Malaysian settlements and on the North-eastern end of Singapore is a Malaysian village whose small huts enliven as  pile dwellings the shore of the Rohore River. While the Chinese populations increases day by day in number, wealth and power and irresistibly displace the other Asiatic elements, the number of the Malays is dwindling due their indolence, even more so as numerous immigrants from South China marry Malays and their offspring takes on Chinese customs.

The European quarter built on the left bank of the Singapore river covers an incidental area in the form semi-circle with a diameter of multiple kilometers formed by the wharf dock. This dock as well as the neighboring streets serve mainly for the business activities of the Europeans. Further inland the remaining parts of the European quarter cover the are up to the three hills that rise in the west of the city. On one of these hills called Government Hill stands the palace of the governor; on the hill south of it, just beyond the Singapore river, called Peel Hill lies Fort Canning, named in honor of the deceased vice-king of India and which includes the signal post which announces the arrival of the ships.

Interspersed with numerous luxurious garden this quarter with its nice houses, the numerous towers and steep roofs of the churches and the public buildings from the pier outwards offers a friendly view of the city. An English look has been impressed upon the buildings and the gardens. On the esplanade, an area of extended grass at the sea shore which is graced with a statue of Stamford Raffles, the founder of Singapore, are numerous tennis and cricket fields. Pretty one story houses with well tended gardens surround the esplanade where the elegant clubhouse of Gymkhana is also located. The cathedral and the government buildings are also not disavowing the style of their builders.

The Raffles museum which I visited first as soon as I had sent foot on the land disappointed me somewhat as the collections were neither quantitatively nor qualitatively up to my expectations. The zoological department is fairly incomplete. Only some representative birds of Malacca I did not know and a remarkably large crocodile that had been killed close to Singapore caught my attention. The ethnographic department is in a rather shabby condition.

Government House is around 45 km distant from the city center and lies, as stated previously, on Government hill in the middle of lovely gardens. To create one of the most beautiful gardens presents few difficulties: The next best jungle is thinned out, laid out with paths, the luxuriously growing nature left to its own devices and the splendid garden is complete.

The governor who had, as told, paid me a visit on board already in the morning received me in the elegantly decorated palace with the message that he had to depart still on the same day to Pulau Penang. This message seemed to trouble the Belgian consul general who was accompanying me and I too was astonished that the governor had to depart so soon after my arrival. Probably this sudden journey was in relation with government matters in connection with the cholera outbreak that could not be delayed.

The drive to the bungalow of the Belgian consul general offered an overview of Singapore’s location and gave me the opportunity to see some of the country mansions situated in a wide arc west of the city. These bungalows almost all built on hills whose slopes were ornamented with lovely gardens offer a refreshing stay to their occupants returning each evening from the government and business district of Singapore. At a considerable altitude above the sea level, these bungalows provide a great view from the city to the sea enlivened by ships, fresh clean air and the charm of tropical vegetation around the hospitable building. Green hills crowned by the gleaming white bungalows follow one another in rows for miles and extend this town of villas.

On the excellent roads that lead through the settlements drive funnily numerous small closed carriages drawn by a single pony. In the city itself, the so called jin rickshaws are used, usually abbreviated to rickshaws —- that is „man-power-wagon“, two-wheeled colorfullly painted small wagons similar to those we have seen in Colombo. Chinese coolies draw them. In the streets of Singapore they are rushing around without a break. There are 2200 rickshasws here and it is astonishing how quickly and over long distances the poor coolies are able to move this comfortable vehicle. Admittedly, a majority of the coolies will fall victim to the arduous transport service within a few years because the necessary exertion attacks the lungs to a high degree of these lamentable human „locomotives“.

At the Belgian consul general’s we took the refreshments with pleasure which the kind host of the house offered to us. As the intense heat had made us desire some welcome cooling. Refreshed we then examined more closely the rich and interesting collection of Malaysian headdresses which the consul general expertly explained to us. He finds time to collect and do practical ethnographic studies beside his varied works. M. de Bernard, who seems to be the consul of the whole world — at the moment he is representing no fewer than four states — knew to tell many interesting details about Singapore. Among other things he made us aware about the humidity of the climate — rain was an almost daily occurrence here — which accounts for the splendid vegetation of the island but causes many adversities for the inhabitants. A further negative point is the massive presence of termites which are commonly but wrongly called white ants. Often all household effects  fall victims to them. In fact the furniture in the bungalow showed noticeable signs of the pernicious activities of these insects. Thus even this island paradise like everything on earth has its dark side.

The  nearby botanical garden of Singapore visited next is a intelligently arranged but still young installation. Its rows of trees and plants promise to turn this place dedicated to science within a few years into a garden with much shade that will not only provide much education but also repose. In systematic order groups are formed besides a labyrinth that represent the vegetation of the Malaysian evergreen tropical region in various specimens, especially nearly all kinds of palms of this zone.

Connected with the botanical garden is also a small zoo that only houses representatives of a few but rare species of the fauna of the Indo-Malaysian subregion; thus a speckled tapir (Tapirus indicus), a tame animal that bound to a string was laying in the middle of the path and nosed at each visitor in a friendly manner. then there was a huge Orang-Utan of Borneo; multiple tiger-like marked cats that were completely new to me; Malayan honey bears; beautiful hornbills; a small jungle hen from Sumatra with a violet crest, herons, cassowaries etc.

Not far from here lies the park and the palace of the sultan of Johor which the pomp loving prince, a friend of architecture, has ordered to be constructed here in recent times — the palace was only completed two months ago.  The palace rises in the middle of the park on a commandeering hill that offers a beautiful panorama of the numerous gardens, parks and bungalows, on the whole crest of Singapore’s villa cities. The large square building in „mixed style“ is the work of a Malaysian architect; it has been laid out with a princely waste of space, equipped with electric lights and is completely most luxuriously furnished.

This sometimes abrupt combination of European and Oriental taste can be traced back to a special reason. Sultan Abu Bekr, who, it is known, tends to spend each summer in England or on the continent and especially repeatedly in our world-famous Karlsbad,  namely likes to bring home numerous objects from his travels which will ornament his palaces. These objects, though they may be valuable and beautiful , they do not fit in completely with the Oriental decoration of the palace chambers. Original, however, are the numerous ornamented elephant tusks that lie on the floor in all the rooms.

Even in the absence of the sultan his graciousness was on display in offering us champaign and coffee in splendid golden vessels in the palace, after which we returned to Singapore past the bungalows of the married English officers who each occupy their own nice home in a park-like area. When we came closer to the city, it was already so dark that the drive through the Chinese quarter turned out to be even more attractive and interesting than during the day. Even though the same lively activity was pulsating in the streets and houses, the same febrile actions but the countless colorful gleaming and twinkling lanterns and lamps that illuminated the shops, the Buddha temples, theaters and restaurants as clear as day. The moving crowds offered a both fascinating  and strange view. A special quality of this quarter is the niceness which rules here despite the numerous workshops and the many shops that offer fish and all other kinds of marine and terrestrial products by cooks and merchants.  Even though the cleanliness may only be superficial, it still offers an agreeable contrast to the atrocious dirt in all the native quarters of the Indian cities. The olfactory senses of the European are, however, affected in both locations in a both strange and not very joyous manner.

In the city I then visited two large shops which offered many ethnographic objects from the Malaysian islands but failed to come to an agreement with the merchants in term of the exceedingly high prices demanded, so that I returned on board without success.


  • Location: Singapore
  • ANNO – on 06.04.1893 in Austria’s newspapers.
  • The k.u.k. Hof-Burgtheater is playing a comedy „Magnetische Kuren“, while the k.u.k. Hof-Operntheater is performing the ballet „Die goldene Märchenwelt“.