What You CANNOT Miss in the Heart of Chinatown, Singapore

The tourist places in our own city are never a high priority in our travel plans. We miss so many exciting places which others come to visit from miles and miles away! This is the realization I had when I visited Chinatown. Having been in Singapore for a few years, I always wanted to see Chinatown as a tourist. Finally my wish came true last weekend when I enrolled for a walking tour by Singapore Footprints.                             IMG_7451Chinatown brings memories of old Singapore to life in a very vivid way.  Singapore’s Chinatown is known as Niu che shui which means bullock cart water as bullock carts were the most prominent means to carry water from one location to the other. There are 4 parts of Chinatown: Kreta Aye (wells water), Telok Ayer (bay water), Tanjong Pagar (Near the bay) and Bukit Pasoh (Big Jars) and each of them have historic importance.

Places to See & Things to Do in Chinatown:

  • Chinatown Visitor Center
  • Buddha Tooth Replic Temple
  • Japanese Street
  • Opera House (now Hotel Lai Chun Yuen)
  • Nam’s Supplies Shop (offerings for the dead)
  • Teck Soon Medicals (Traditional Chinese Medicine)
  • Ann Siang Hill Park
  • Thian Hock Keng Temple
  • Chinatown Shopping for Souvenirs
  • Food Tasting: Laksa & Fried Carrot Cake (Both are must try!)
Food Street of Chinatown

Chinatown was originally a Sago (a food good for digestion) processing center from 1840 to 1940. After World War II, biggest consumers such as India started importing Sago directly from manufacturing countries such as Indonesia. Soon the business in Chinatown collapsed and the streets here, turned into brothels. It eventually evolved to become home of hard working laborers who used to stay in very small houses and had to take turns to sleep. It used to be a depressing site to see dead bodies around in this area and hence the government banned these laborers from staying in this neighborhood. The streets were soon occupied by Chinese and Indonesian businessmen who opened shops to sell Traditional Chinese Medicine popularly known as TCM.                                                                                      4D5385F9-75C9-41A4-89E3-023C3172B249However, these shops were not performing very well. In 2007, government setup a Buddha Tooth Relic Temple here to bless this place. It is believed that all businesses flourished thereafter.

Tooth Relic Temple, Chinatown

During the World War II era, ‘The Japanese Street’ was famous for gambling, prostitution, opium smoking and drinking. It also had an Opera House called Lai Chun Yuen now converted into a hotel. The gallery of this hotel displays images of professionals and their  clothing and makeup depict various emotions. For eg, black face symbolizes justice and red face symbolizes bravery.

Opera House

Further down the street is Nam’s offerings shop, which sells offerings for the dead. This supplies shop, about 150 years old, is one of the only 3 such shops in Singapore. They also make paper offerings in the form of houses, cars etc. which can cost over $8000!

Nam’s Supplies Shop: Offerings for the Dead

Across the street one can find  Teck Soon Medicals, a Traditional Chinese Medicine shop. These herbal medicines are made using historical recipes using 100 percent natural ingredients, a concept very popular in this part of the world. Another example of such medicines can be found in the Ayurveda medicines in India.

Traditional Chinese Medicine Shop

The next stop was Ann Siang Hill park, named after Chia Ann Siang. He was a rich Hokkein merchant and was one of the most successful merchants of all times. He acquired both Ann Siang Hill and Mount Erskine. The park is developed on a smal hill with beautiful landscape and is a nice place to stroll  around.

Entrance of Ann Siang Hill Park

Our next stop was quite unique. Something I thought never existed in Singapore! It was the last surviving well in Singapore which is preserved for future generations to see and embrace.

The only well in Singapore!

Singapore is one the unique cities that has been growing in land area for the last many years. This is due to the process of reclaimation of land from the sea. Once reclaimed, the piece of land is left as is for thirty years to allow it to settle. Post that the construction starts.

Thian Hock Keng temple, literally meaning temple of heaven & happiness, is built on one such piece of reclaimed land. Back then, it used to face the sea and was built to protect the fisherman from the hardships in the sea. The material to build this temple has come from Poland, Scotland and China. The entrance has male and female lion on either side of the main door and offerings are made here to the Goddess of the sea.

Thian Hock Keng Temple
Gorgeous Graffiti on the Back Side of Temple!

This is was the last stop of the day for us. Indeed a day well spent! We walked for about 5 Kms and got to see so many beautiful, culturally rich and historical places in Singapore. Whether you are a local or a tourist, I highly recommend a tour to the older lanes of this wonderful city!

Did you ever get a chance to explore any city on foot? If so, tell us below about your experience!!

Want to see more? Check out the other things you can do in Singapore!

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87 Comments Add yours

  1. kephasshares says:


  2. The Club at Ann Siang Hill Is a pretty good place to chill too!

  3. Noted! Thanks for the tips, I’ve been there before, but I haven’t yet discovered it with this depth!

  4. Awesome ideas, Sona! This place is exquisite!

  5. Kristine Nicole Alessandra says:

    Wow, What an awesome post and I really love to read more about the History of this place and I’m sure you had a great experience there.

  6. I’m to glad to see the Buddha Tooth Replic Temple. It’s a place I’ve always wanted to visit and see with my own eyes.

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