During my last visit to Singapore, I spent time exploring the city and visiting several of its attractions. So on my one day visit to the Lion City this time, I decided to stay put in one place and explore the area– Chinatown.
Singapore’s Chinatown is located within the larger Singaporean district of Outram. Walking out of the MRT Station at Chinatown, I was instantly thrust into the hustle and bustle of its shopping street. There was a busy traffic of people; walking, shopping, pushing. Vendors were standing by the side of their stalls; some oblivious to the commotion, some calling out to their possible buyers. There were also groups of chilled-out travelers just sitting in the many food stalls with several beers on the table; drinking and people-watching. And of course, from time to time there’s that occasional picture-taking tourist who would stop right smack in the middle of traffic for a shot.
The shopping street was the place I began my exploration of Singapore’s Chinatown.
Chinatown’s Shopping Street
You can’t say you’ve been to Chinatown without stepping foot in its shopping street. The place is packed with shoppers and tourists, and the streets are lined with beautiful Chinese colonial houses in a myriad of pastel colors. It is decorated with distinctive Chinese cultural elements like wooden windows with adjustable slits, lanterns and red paper decorations.
This is the best place to get Singaporean trinkets and souvenirs, or specific souvenirs with Chinese details– antique Chinese marble seals, calligraphy paintings, chopsticks, embroidery, paper cut, woodblock pictures, and even bright red pillows with Chinese wordings. Looking for something? You’ll probably find it here.
Chinatown’s Food Street
The food street is located on Smith Street, which is a pedestrianized street complete with a glass canopy shelter and cooling system– a great idea, considering the Singaporean heat. The entire street is lined with hawker stalls and shophouse restaurants, offering everything from a grand Chinese Szechuan meal to a simple plate of Char Kuey Teow, or Curry Noodles.
I had lunch and dinner at the hawker stalls along the street, sampling Singaporean street food (which is almost the same as Malaysia). My plate of roasted duck noodles for lunch was delicious; but I have to say I particularly enjoyed dinner, which consists of a plate of Kungpao Chicken, and a plate of Broccoli with Abalone sauce. Perhaps I was hungry from a day of walking around!
Buddha Tooth Relic Temple and Museum
The Buddha Tooth Relic Temple was built in 2007, and is a popular tourist attraction and place of prayer for the locals. It is known for housing the scared Buddha tooth relic, as well as other religious artifacts. The temple has 4 floors–housing the prayer rooms, the Buddhist arts and culture exhibitions, the relic stupa, a theatre and a rooftop garden.
Entrance to the temple and museum is free; but it is compulsory to be properly dressed. Visitors who arrive in shorts and short sleeves will be expected to cover up with scarves, which can be borrowed from a huge basket outside the temple. There was a prayer possession happening during my visit, so I skipped the prayer room and headed up to see the relic and exhibitions. I also made it up to the rooftop to take several turns on the Buddha prayer wheel.
Sri Mariamman Temple
This is the oldest Hindu temple in the country, dating back to the early 19th century. The Sri Mariamman Temple was built by Indian craftsmen and throughout the years, has been restored many times.
Shoes are not allowed in the temple. Entry is free, however the usage of cameras and video cameras come with an extra charge. While walking around the temple, look out for the elaborate carvings and detailing on the walls and ceilings; as well as the beautiful sculptures of deities and other mythical beings found throughout the temple.
When you’re in Chinatown, do look out for the mobile ice-cream stands– because there is nothing better than ice-cream when you’ve been walking for hours under the scorching afternoon sun.
These SG$1.20 (US$0.80) ice-creams are sliced in blocks and sandwiched between to wafers. They come in a variety of flavours– I ordered the chocolate chip one; and I have to say, the first bite was heaven! This is the best and most popular way to eat ice cream in Singapore.
Singapore City Gallery
Located in the URA Center, the Singapore City Gallery showcases the process of Singapore’s physical transformation in the last 40 years. It tells the story of how the city has grown from a backwater village to a metropolis of skyscrapers and remarkable architectural feats.
Entrance to the gallery is free. I had a very educational visit, walking through the exhibits displaying the different stages of Singapore’s development. From pictures and information boards; to audiovisual and interactive videos– the story is told in absolute detail. My favorite part of the exhibition was the huge architectural model of Singapore island.
Red Dot Museum
Last stop of the day, the Red Dot Museum. It is the place to visit for innovative designs in the creative world. Products, ideas and concepts from the Red Dot Design Award are displayed here– each one handpicked and chosen by the who’s who in the design industry.
For the entry fee of SG$8 (US$6); I wasn’t very impressed. It could also be that design and innovation isn’t my kinda thing, but I was curious and decided to visit anyway. I think the museum would be most beneficial for those in the industry. However, I loved the Red Dot building– it is painted entirely red on the outside, and on the inside is interestingly designed and decorated.
At the End of the Day
And that ends my one day adventure in Singapore’s Chinatown. Of course, there are many other attractions and interesting places to see and explore in the area– but with the limited time I had, that was all I could visit. I guess the rest will have to be for another time, and if you have any suggestions, do let me know!