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.
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!)
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.
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.
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!
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.
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.
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.
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.
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!
Pin For Later: