Singapore’s Chinatown district was on my short list of things I had to see while visiting Singapore last week. I’m glad I did because it perhaps is one of the nicest districts that you’ll find in Singapore. Ample shopping and dining were obvious and I took the better part of a morning just strolling up and down each of Chinatown’s avenues.
Due to Singapore’s fantastic Subway system, getting to Chinatown is easy and can be reached quickly from most parts of the city. Once you reach Chinatown, it seems like the rest of Singapore melts away and you are surrounded by the great Chinatown atmosphere.
Like other “Chinatowns” around the world, you’ll find a wide variety of things to see, buy and eat in Singapore’s edition. What sets it apart from other Chinatown districts that I have visited in other cities, is the fact that not much has changed from the early days of Singapore’s Chinatown in terms of architecture. Walking through the streets, I noticed that the majority of buildings dated back to the late 19th and early 20th centuries. So not only was there a lot to look at in terms of shops and dining, there was plenty of architecture to appreciate as well.
I for one am not a big fan of shopping the typical souvenir shops and stalls that I found in Chinatown (don’t like the shopkeepers coming up to me calling me their “friend”!!), so there’s not much for me to talk about it from a shopping perspective (though I did find an old “Schuco” Lufthansa 747 model….go figure!). I did however try to take photos of a wide variety of things that I saw, and for the purposes of this trip report will have be more of a pictorial than anything else.
When you first reach Chinatown, the colors and decorations will immediately draw your attention. Several streets are covered with hanging strings of very colorful lanterns. I imagine the must look fantastic when lit in the evening:
As I mentioned earlier, it was the architecture of Chinatown that I enjoyed the most. With the buildings being preserved to capture their 100+ year history, Chinatown is certainly a historic oasis in the middle of what otherwise has become a modern concrete jungle in Singapore.
The Buddha Tooth Relic Temple is the largest Buddhist temple in Singapore, and certainly one of the architectural centerpieces of Chinatown:
In addition to the Buddhist temples, there is a very interesting Hindu templed known as Sri Mariamman. It has a very unique tower at it’s entrance:
Examples of religious offerings such as this were evident throughout Chinatown:
Walking around Chinatown I came across a “people’s market” that housed hundreds of tiny little shops selling trinkets, low cost clothing and household items. However in the basement of the market I discovered a busy fish market that had several rows of vendors selling the day’s catch:
I’m sure they tasted as good as they look!:
As I said earlier, Chinatown is known for shopping and dining. Though I didn’t shop much, I did take time to treat my self to Singapore’s Chili Crab at a small restaurant in Chinatown. It was one of the best meals that I had while in Singapore:
Though not pictured, there was another stop I made in Chinatown for one of Singapore’s culinary specialities. Bak kwa is a traditional Chinese dried pork speciality similar to “jerky”. It’s usually a very popular item during the Chinese New Year, and people have been known to stay in line for hours at their favorite Bak Kwa shops. I stopped by Kim Hwa Guan for my first Bak Kwa experience. I had basically used “Google” to find a reputable Bak Kwa hawker and Kim Hwa Guan was very well reviewed. For those of you planning a visit to Singapore, I definitely recommend a stop there for Bak Kwa. It’s located on the first floor of the People’s Park Food Center, a large food hawker building near the heart of Chinatown.
In all, I enjoyed visiting Chinatown. Being there from mid-morning into early afternoon probably did not give me the best feel for it, since most shops and stands light up for the crowds in the evening. Since I was only in Singapore for 2 nights, and had already decided to visit the Night Safari I probably missed out on seeing even more of this vibrant district. However, I could imagine just how festive it must be at night, and if you are the kind of traveler that enjoys immersing yourself into a crowded market to shop and dine, there is no doubt that you will enjoy a visit to Singapore’s Chinatown.
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