A tale of Orang Laut and Singapore River

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orang laut 01According to legend based on the history of pre-Rafflesian time of Singapore, Orang Laut or Sea Gypsies was the communities who lived ‘in the numerous bays, inlets ad creeks surrounding Singapore.’

 Half of them lived on water, in little canoes that could scarcely stretch themselves.  The water lodgings were equipped with 1 or 2 cooking pots, earthy jars and mats made of pandanus leaves that allowed shading from sun and rain.

220px-Portrait_of_William_Farquhar_(c._1830)
Major-General William Farquhar

They spent most of their time on boat, where birth, marriage and death took place therein.  As they were accustomed to life on the boat, they are easily recognized with their wadding gait on land.

  The other half of these people lived in huts on the banks near Kallang River and at the wider portion of Singapore River.

  During the times of British settlement, Major-General William Farquhar (1774-1839), the First Resident and Commandant of Singapore was appalled by the Orang Laut wearing no clothes, so he distributed money, clothes and rice to them.  Their children were terrified by the newcomers, merchants, laborers from all over the world.

One even jumped into the sea and got drowned when people approached near their boats.

And now, if you attempted to jump into the water, hoping to stay closer to the legendary tale, I think that is the only best reason I could agree upon.

orang laut 02

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8 thoughts on “A tale of Orang Laut and Singapore River

    brassmass said:
    June 23, 2013 at 7:26 am

    thank you.

    Kongo said:
    June 23, 2013 at 11:02 am

    I’ve navigated through the Malacca Strait and nearby waters many times and I think there are still plenty of Sea Gypsies about. They’ve moved up in the world as far as their water transportation goes…sometimes we call them pirates. Interesting post!

      Sydney Fong responded:
      June 24, 2013 at 11:53 am

      WOw! Thank you for the info! I’m getting interested to know about them!
      Thanks for the sharing! 🙂

    sunglingun said:
    March 30, 2014 at 4:27 pm

    Hello, I first heard of the sea gypsies or orang last is when I went on the photo trip last year. I was very moved by their plight. You can see my photos at my blog sunglingun.com

    Thanks for this great article.

      Sydney Fong responded:
      April 28, 2014 at 12:49 pm

      Thanks for reading my Blog.
      Good to hear people sharing the same interest as me!
      Okay I will check it out your Blog!
      Have a good day!
      Cheers! 🙂

    Nasir Roslan said:
    January 21, 2015 at 10:05 pm

    Hi, thanks for sharing! My paternal grandfather was actually a Native Singaporean Malay and he had Orang Laut ancestry from Kallang River and Pulau Ubin. 🙂

      Sydney Fong responded:
      January 22, 2015 at 6:06 pm

      Wow!You must be feel proud of them! I actually feel envy by their living habitat which live by the water and in the nature. 🙂

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