Dr John van Wyhe


Travelling alone across Southeast Asia in the 19th century, Ida Pfeiffer encountered human heads put out to dry and faced off angry cannibals. John van Wyhe recounts the adventures of this remarkable woman. The name Ida Pfeiffer (1797–1858) is largely unknown today, but in the mid-19th century, she was one of the most famous women in the world. Starting in her mid-40s, this Viennese mother of two embarked on five major expeditions, two of which involved circumnavigating the globe. She accomplished all this while travelling as an unchaperoned woman, a notion that was almost unheard of in those days. During the course of her journeys, Pfeiffer visited Singapore twice: in 1847 and in 1851. Thanks to her, we have a glimpse of Singapore’s natural environment during the period as well as snapshots of daily life on the island. A Tomboy Who Grew Up Ida Laura Reyer was born into a…