October 16, 2011

SINGAPURA: Chinatown on Foot

Singapore has been unfairly dubbed as lacking a soul due to the absence of chaos and clutter in the midst of towering skyscrapers of cement and steel. But before you write it off as just another too successful metropolis, look closer and let yourself get lost in the narrow back alleys - you’ll be surprised that it is actually throbbing of unique character and in varied rhythm thick with charm.

What was once where Chinese immigrants lived, worked and played, this beautiful and renovated neighborhood with elements of Baroque and Victorian architecture buildings is now one of the busiest and most tourist infested places in Singapore.

The primary attraction here are the carefully restored buildings that has been turned into restaurants, cafés, food stalls and shops that sell probably almost anything you can think of. There’s also the traditional Chinese souvenirs like ornaments, porcelain Buddha’s and jade. If you follow your nostrils, it will lead you right to aromatic Chinese medicine and even dried creatures believed to have medicinal properties.

Museums and galleries can also be found in Chinatown as well as mosques and temples, parks and an Opera Theatre.

While the heat and humidity could get a little too much, there is no better way to appreciate Chinatown than to do it on foot. It would have been so nice to explore the whole of Chinatown but since we didn’t have the luxury of time, we decided to just visit a few places of interest.

We started our DYI walking tour by getting off at South Bridge Road and Pagoda Street (VIA DUCK AND HIPPO TOURS HOP- ON HOP-OFF BUS) and first visited the oldest Hindu Temple in Singapore, the Sri Mariamman Temple. Entrance to the temple is free but you have to leave your shoes at the gate, taking photos is also allowed for a reasonable 3SGD per camera.

Next stop was the vibrant Pagoda Street lined with shopping stalls and clusters of restaurant that can blow away your Singaporean Dollars (just ask MJ).

Right in the middle of the shopping area is the Chinatown Heritage Center, a museum that showcases the history of the Chinatown and how the early Chinese immigrants lived.

Wandering aimlessly in the area, we came across this narrow alley with colorful structures of quirky cafes, shops and watering holes; these buildings are over a hundred years old and now have been carefully restored and are under conservation. The street is better known as Ann Siang Hill and leads to the more popular and hip Club Street.

Continuing on, was the impressive Buddha Tooth Relic Temple and Museum. Opened to public only in 2007, this 4 storey building houses the historical Buddha’s tooth relic, although contested by some. This cultural monument includes a museum, a souvenir shop, a tea house and hundreds of Buddhist artifacts well worth a visit.

Further digging through the heart of Chinatown yielded a discovery of a quaint air-conditioned café tucked in yet another charming narrow alley and decided it to be the perfect place to take a break from all the walking and sweating. We capped our pretty fruitful tour with a cup of mind jolting cappuccino and ham and cheese sandwiches.

GETTING THERE: If you are taking the MRT, take the Northeast Line and get off at Chinatown Exit A, you will find yourself in Pagoda Street near Chinatown Heritage Centre.


  1. I wanna go to china and buy a lot of stuff... is it cheap there??? i love all you captured,,, amazing!

  2. Hi Eigroj, you can practice your haggling skills here. :)

  3. wow..there's a lot of stuff to see and to but..what a colorful place..

  4. Sigh memories, this was the first China Town that I visited abroad.

  5. Hi Jun! And it's great that these attractions are concentrated in one area, very convenient:-)

    Hi Claire! China towns anywhere are always worth a visit, right. We'll make sure to squeeze KL's next time like you guys did:-)

  6. Ang fasyon ni Mj! Hoot Hoot! Haha Alam ko Kim loves architecture! Nakakatuwa yung area noh? =) Nachachallenge ako magshoot ng architecture kasi its not my forte. Hehe

    Ika nga namin ng sister ko when we went, hindi tayo mananakawan! Haha I LOOOVED that blue building in Ansiang!! As iiiin!!!

    Can't wait for your other stories! =)

  7. Sumi-simple girl in a shift dress nga lang ang peg ko dyan, hahaha! Thanks Rikikay! Naiwanan kami ng bus actually dahil sobrang naaliw sya sa area hihi! More kwento to come:-D

  8. In Singapore right now. Not sure I am all that find of it. I do like the clean streets and all, but this state is like big brother it feels like!

    World Traveler - funny stories


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