Where are we going? I asked Jan and Wilson then they replied “Chinatown”. I’m not obviously reading our itinerary LOL!, I replied. I seriously got excited when I heard were heading to Chinatown since this place is one of my favorite tourist spot in Singapore. It’s the place where you can find great bargain, good food, astonishing shophouses and a unique cultural experience that will draw your attention instantly.
We first visited the Hindu Temple located right in the center of Chinatown. I don’t know if its just me but I find it so strange to see a Hindu Temple in a Chinese district but this interesting architecture marvel became one of Chinatown’s most popular tourist stop.
The Hindu temple is called Sri Mariammam Temple and its the oldest and most important Hindu temple in Singapore.
This colorful and well designed temple has a pagoda shaped entrance and it has the most ornate gopurams (pyramidal gateway towers) in all of Singapore.
This is an active temple and well visited temple by worshipers and everyone is required to take off their shoes before entering the temple. Also as a courtesy everyone is requested to observe silence. It is a must for each tourist to ask permission before taking photos inside the temple.
One thing unique in Singapore is its well preserved Shophouses. I love the way they conserve most of the Two-story Shophouses and maintained it as colorful as its history. According to Wikipedia, a shophouse is a vernacular architectural building type that is commonly seen in areas such as urban Southeast Asia. This hybrid building form characterises the historical centres of most towns and cities in the region.
Typically, shophouses consist of shops on the ground floor which open up to a public arcade or “five-foot way”, and which have residential accommodation upstairs. The shophouses would abut each other to form rows with regular facade,fire walls and adherence to street alignment.
Chinatown’s busiest street is Pagoda Street, this street got its name from the Sri Mariamman Temple which has a Pagoda shaped entrance. While roaming around the streets of Chinatown, we chanced upon a street vendor who sells and customizes reverse hand painted glass ornament – Imagine a glass ball with a circular hole in the middle that is being used as a canvass. The inside painting ornaments which is also known as li bien ornaments is one of the leading treasure arts of China.
Shopping in Smith Street may sometimes require a little bit of haggling but I find most of the prices in the area relatively cheap.
While wrapping up our short tour, we visited a shophouse that sells all types of tea and that shop was probably one of the best tea shops that I have visited.
They have a huge collection of tea from white, black, green and even teas that was aged for more than a decade already. Before we left the tea house, the owner let us sample their best jasmine tea and she gave us a complimentary loose jasmine tea for us to enjoy:)
Both from historical and cultural point of view tour of Chinatown can bring you more fun and you can learn several things about the Chinese culture. The Chinatown in Singapore showcases Chinese cultural and traditional elements. For a first time visitor, touring the place provides you feel of Chinese way of life.
If you want to discover more about the history of Chinese settlement in Singapore then you should visit the Chinatown heritage center, which is a museum that showcases Chinese artifacts, sample of their houses, porcelains, and traditional Chinese home based business like tailoring and dressmaking. The heritage centre is on the left if you walk straight from the Sri Mariammam Temple in Pagoda Street.
Singapore is going high on demand among tourists from across the globe due to several factors. It’s the cleanliness, modern approach and the great conservation efforts they have that allows them to preserves their unique culture and fantastic structures.
Indeed, there are so many places on this small yet beautiful city state that you need to explore. The best way to see and enjoy Singapore’s Chinatown is to walk its streets, so go ahead and burn the extra calories!!
You can reach Chinatown by using the Subway system, MRT, Buses or by taking a cab.
Next Stop : Singapore’s Little India