Tuesday, June 12, 2012

Trail #1: Chinatown

For me, Chinatown and Chinese New Year are essentially one and the same. Because it's only that time of the year where I follow my family to Chinatown to roam the night streets and to get some New Year goodies. Besides that, I hardly go to the Chinatown area. 

This is unlike the Chinatown in other countries where ethnic Chinese often flock to Chinatown to get their favourite food or to buy some groceries which is unavailable in Western supermarkets. Since practically everything in Singapore's Chinatown is available everywhere else, Chinatown becomes more of a place to look at a piece of history. But I'm not denying the fact that Chinatown retains its charm for many Singaporeans because of some traditional shops (e.g. those selling pastries) or cheaper goods at some shops. 

Chinatown Trail
I did a Chinatown Trail yesterday and here, I've marked the places on Google Map. If you are interested in retracing my footsteps, all you need to do is to print out the map and to follow it accordingly. Why I did this was because sometimes when I was travelling, I was often bothered by which sequence I should take in order to maximise my sightseeing. 

View Larger Map

A. Chinatown MRT Station
Start at Chinatown MRT Station to begin your trail.

B. People's Park Centre
People's Park Centre is a said to be the first shopping centre in Singapore. Many people come here for lunch because the food here is affordable and good. At the first floor, there is a row of stores selling different kind of traditional kueh (cakes). This place is also famous for the travel agencies. There isn't much shopping to do here although there are shops selling clothes and spectacles. For cheaper food, you may want to go to Hong Lim Food Centre instead, which is very crowded during lunchtime.

C. Bee Cheng Hiang
For tourists, this is a definite visit if you come to Singapore. The Bakkwa (smoked and roasted strips of pork) is similar to jerky. This is a must-eat during Chinese New Year. However, customs restrictions may prohibit you from packing some of this back. It is also well known for its different kinds of floss.

D. Jamae Mosque
One great thing about urban planning in Singapore is that it reflects our multi-racial and multi-religious culture. In Chinatown, you can see a mosque and a Hindu Temple on the same street and a Buddhist Temple not too far away. Here's the Jamae Mosque which is one of the earliest mosques in Singapore. It was set up by the Chulias, who were Tamil Muslims who came to Singapore mostly as traders and money changers.

E. Sri Mariamman Temple
The Sri Mariamman Temple is Singapore's oldest temple. It is a National Monument which was founded in 1827. Although admission is free, you have to pay $3 for a camera ticket and $6 if you are using a video camera. In the months of around October and November each here, the Theemithi (fire walking ceremony) will be celebrated at the temple.

F. Chinatown Heritage Centre
We had a school trip to the Chinatown Heritage Centre when I was in secondary school and I'm not going to pay another $10 (adult) to enter this place. It's $6 for children. It is probably interesting if you would like to find out about the Chinese immigrants who came to Singapore to find work in the early days. You will see antiques, living quarters of the coolies etc.

If you walk down a little, you will see the Singapore Coins & Notes Museum. Honestly, I never knew such a place existed. It's $10 for adults, $6 for children, NSF, students and senior citizens. As usual, I was not about to let a few dollars slip out of my wallet for this.

But if you are interested in looking at coins and notes from the earlier era used for barter trade and how it transformed to polymer notes, with an emphasis on pre- and post-independence Singapore, you could buy an entrance ticket. Otherwise, you may be content like me, just to take a picture of the World  Largest Coin.

Of course, along this street, there is some shopping you can do and you can buy some little souvenirs or have your name painted.

I took this picture, partly because I thought it accurately reflected Singapore. A piece of history always being retained in some way, but new things constantly sprouting out to deal with the needs of the economy.

G. Chinatown Food Street
The Chinatown Food Street is bustling at night but looks pretty deserted in the afternoon.

H. Tong Heng Confectionary 
This bakery dates back to 1920 and is well known for its traditional Chinese pastries. It is very well known for its diamond shaped egg tarts ($1.40 each). Lots of people also order the pastries here for their wedding. I bought an egg tart yesterday and it has a hard crust as opposed to the many layer crust of egg tarts commonly eaten in dim sum restaurants. You could takeaway some egg tarts or other pastries. 

I. Buddha Tooth Relic & Museum
Beautiful architecture and the famous Buddha Tooth Relic is housed in this place. Click here to read more.

J. Da Zhong Guo
This confectionery is well-known for its mooncakes during Mid-Autumn festival. However, I have tried them before and found them too oily.

K. Maxwell Food Centre
From Chinatown, you realise you are slowly walking into the Tanjong Pagar area. This is where you need to go in order to make your stomach sing a happy song. Recently, there was a food war between Tian Tian Chicken Rice and Ah Tai Chicken Rice. If you are patient enough to queue, you could order from both stores and determine who the winner is.

L. URA Centre
If you are interested in urban planning, this is for you. Read the post on this place here. Free admission.

M. Red Dot Design Museum
I went to this place a few years ago and found it quite cool. If you are interested in designs, whether quirky or practical, this is the place for you! The last time I came here with a friend, we spent around 2 hours in the museum, getting entertained by the strange but innovative ideas. Entrance fees are $8 for adults and $4 for children, students and senior citizens.

Just walk a bit more and you will see the Tanjong Pagar MRT station to proceed to your next trail! I took about 2 hours to walk this trail, but that's just because I didn't really enter the buildings. It should take you an entire afternoon to finish this trail! 


Post a Comment