Known to locals as Niu Che Shui in Mandarin, Chinatown is one of the must-see cultural enclaves for visitors heading to Singapore. The heart of Chinatown is a bustling, colourful mix of old and new, from family-run goldsmiths and medicine halls, to textile stores and dim sum restaurants.
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Rich cultural heritage
Take a stroll down the stalls at Chinatown and you will get to see what this place has to offer. It is another one of my favourite places to visit, not only during the Chinese New Year period. During Chinese New Year, they will be selling decorations as well as snacks and there will be too many people. You will find yourself trying to get out of the crowd more often than looking at what is for sale. Otherwise at other days, it is usually quite empty except for tourists.
There are so many stalls there that sell almost the same thing. Take a walk around to look at the different prices before deciding on which stall to go to. Souvenirs are sold there and it is relatively cheaper as compared to other tourist attractions. I have seen some at the latter with prices marked up at least thrice. Chinatown is one of my favourite places to get postcards. I frequent this stall that sells cheap postcards of decent quality. It is about thirty cents per piece, much cheaper than those in malls which is often at a dollar each.
Do not miss the dim sum there too. Located at one end of the many streets is Tak Po Dim Sum. The prices are affordable and their food is good. Prices for a generous serving of congee start from S$3.50. Go in threes if possible as all of their dim sum will be served in sets of three. All of the items on their menu are worth a try and pocket friendly too. Although I feel that the fried ones can get a tad oily at times. They provide wet towels as well as roasted peanuts which will be charged, let them know if you do not need them and they will deduct it from your final bill. Chinatown is a place worth visiting, even if it is just for the dim sum!
A great place to walk about
Chinatown is one of the most popular attractions in town and also one of my favourite places to walk around at on weekdays. Try not to go during the weekends as the crowds will be insane.
As an avid photographer, I find the architecture and the setting of Chinatown very intriguing. Coupled with people from different countries walking around the area, I can always find new subjects to photograph. There are many shops selling the usual touristy stuff and trinkets which are overpriced, so try not to buy from these shops unless you can bargain for a better price.
There are quite a lot of decent Chinese restaurants around the area. I personally love the Chongqing grilled fish restaurants dotted around the area, do try it out if you see one! Also, the newly-renovated food street just opened a few days ago, definitely going back soon to try out some of the local delicacies!
China town-have you noticed the tourists?
A visit to Chinatown is a must. Of course most will want to wander through the stalls and shops and sample the delights at the mostly reasonable food stalls in Smith Street. You can enjoy Taiwanese Snow Ice in Temple Street which is wonderful and I a told (though I still need confirmation) that a mountain of snow fruit ice has very few calories. You can even have a sausage from the colourful westerner(Austrian?) who runs a stall in Trengganu Lane. But why would you do that then there is a wealth of good food around.
What are the musts? The Chinatown Heritage Centre in Temple Street, the Buddha Tooth Temple opposite Maxwell Food Court, Ann Sang Hill, the markets in Cross Street and at Kreta Ayer for starters. And don't forget the Temples and mosques in South Bridge Road.
Climb up Pearl Hill for a view of the whole area (if it's not too hot) or wander along the pleasant linear park that runs behind the Pinnacle.
And if you are tired, head for any of the reflexology centres and have a good foot massage. They are the cheapest in town and they are usually the best.
But don't forget, we are talking Chinatown here. Chinatown means trade, not tourism per se. Nonetheless, it is worth visiting, but move away from the main haunts of the tourists and explore the back lanes.
Chinatown for Chinese New Year
Chinatown is one of the most popular tourist attractions in Singapore. This is because I guess it has retained much of the Chinese flavour in its shops and even the decorations. During Chinese New Year, we see some of the most elaborate decorations hung along Chinatown. I think many people regard visiting Chinatown for decoration viewing a necessity to be done every Chinese New Year. The festive feel is exceptionally strong there.
Chinatown also has a plethora of delectable Chinese food and cheap daily products. The shopowners there have also tapped onto the fact that Chinatown is a tourist attraction and are selling many many souvenirs. The streets of Chinatown are a lively area even though sometimes it gets too stuffy and warm from the heat generated from nearby food stores or even the sheer massive crowd. It is a must visit for foreigners any day and a must visit for Singaporeans during Chinese New Year.
China in Town
Chinatown has established a name for a place where affordable goods and wide variety of products are found. Chinatown in fact is almost everywhere. Most of well-populated countries have this little China village.
Chinatown in Singapore is practically like other Chinatowns in various countries. It comes to life especially on months when Chinese New Year is approaching. Lanterns are found hanging everywhere radiating an atmosphere of cheerfulness and elation. Though it is equally full-packed on ordinary days, more assortments are available during the CNY season.
On regular days it is full of tourists and locals too. There is this huge temple where some come to pray while others just walk around to explore. Most people come for shopping. Affordable products are up for grabs from accessories to footwear and home furnishings from curtains to kitchenware.
So if practicality is your game Chinatown should be in your Hall of Fame. :)
= Chinese New Year
Personally, the mention of Chinatown reminds me of Chinese New Year. It is during this time of the year where Chinatown really comes to life. During the CNY period, families will go there to pray, see the CNY decorations and buy all sorts of CNY stuffs like cookies,decors and the list goes on.
But during non CNY period, there are still places in Chinatown worth going to. There is this super huge hawker center (on top of a carpark) that sells almost everything. You can even buy xiao long bao there! Another famous delicacy there is their Claypot rice which has quite a long queue.
And of course, Chinatown is also famous for their money exchange, said to have the best exchange rate in town. However, it would not be worth travelling there if you only plan to exchange small amounts.
Chinatown may mean something totally different for the locals and tourists. But for the older generation, I'm sure it holds a lot of memory and carries significance in their hearts.
Chinatown or tourist town?
Chinatown for me is the kind of place where tourists go to feel as if that they are seeing the "real Singapore". But truth be told, the place is anything but an apt reflection of the Singaporean way of life. Never have I seen such a high concentration of souvenir shops squeezed within one area of Singapore. Also, the price of the supposedly authentic chilli crab and other hawker fare is ridiculously overpriced here.
If you’d to ask me, I’d prefer to visit places like Arab Street, Balestier road or Katong if I wanted to see the kind of olden day architecture seen around chinatown.
People.. people everywhere!
Years ago, I used to go Chinatown for the food and sometimes outdoor equipment at Sng Arms. I have never been good at bargaining so I'd rather go fixed price than attempt a bargain at Beach Road.
I would join the ranks of tourists at food street and pay exorbitant prices for hawker meals. Given the close proximity of all the temples and attractions in the area, there is really alot of things to see and do in Chinatown.. if you're a tourist. If you're a local guy with nothing better to do, you WILL find something better to do than going all the way down to Chinatown for a visit. Chances are you've already seen it all anyway.
Today, having discovered my true misanthropic self, I knew I could never step into Chinatown again. There are people everywhere, in every nook and cranny of this tourist attraction!
Just saw their CNY decorations
I just drove by Chinatown the last few days and they were already putting up the CNY decorations. My first impression was that this must be the ugliest decorations they had put up in years. They were hanging red square boxes across the roads. On closer look, the boxes seem to have drawings of the animals from the Chinese zodiac.
I just read from the Chinese evening paper that the public was complaining the boxes did not look auspicious. It looked like boxes Chinese used during funerals. A Feng Shui master had stepped up to help provide justifications that the boxes had good meaning if they put something inside the boxes like light bulbs. But they need to keep the lights on all the time if not, the meaning would change to mean all the good things come to naught. If they do leave the lights on all the time throughout the one month, there may be another group of people complaining about not environment friendly.
The secrets within chinatown
Chinatown is known for its Chinese heritage, with old shophouses, and temples. It also holds the oldest Hindu temple in singapore, Sri mariamman temple. What's special about this temple is that this is the only place in singapore where a firewalking ceremony takes place.
A week before deepavali, Hindus will participate in the firewalking ceremony, which happens usually around October or November. The ceremony is done for devotees to cleanse themselves from the sins they've done or for a specific prayer to the gods. It's a scary but unforgettable experience of being involved in such a ceremony. Since it happens only once a year, you can bet there are crowds in the thousands. This is also a tourism landmark in Chinatown. That stretch of south bridge road consist of a mosque, a Hindu temple and a Buddhist temple. Multi racialism at its best.
Chinatown is definitely a tourists area because it still has bits and pieces of old singapore.