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.
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!
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!
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 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.
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. :)
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.
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.
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!
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.