Asia Pacific Guides™
Exploring the 'ins and outs'
of Singapore's Chinatown
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If you have more than just a day or two in Grateful newcomers, who disembark from their
Singapore, it is advisable to dedicate a full day to boats right here, built the mosques and the temple
Chinatown, as this historic part of the city boasts along Telok Ayer Street to show gratitude to their
many interesting sites, some of which not even lord after surviving a long and dangerous sea voyage:
related to Chinese traditions… Nagore Durgha Shrine (Mosque), right on the corner
of Boon Tat and Telok Ayer, was built in the late
A small Chinese community already existed in the 1820s by South Indian Tamil Muslims and features
area of Singapore hundreds of years ago, but it never both South Indian motifs and Muslim elements. Next
developed until Sir Raffles founded modern in line, just a few steps away, Thian Hock Keng
Singapore, at the beginning of the 19th century, and Temple is Singapore's oldest and most important
labor migrants started to flock in droves from Hokkien (Fujian) temple and the street's focal point.
Fujian and other region in southern China. Originally built in the 1820s in honor of Matsu, the
Taoist goddess of the sea, it features the typical
Chinatown, south of the Singapore River, was meant temple architectural style of southern China and
to be Singapore's Chinese enclave when ethnic boasts lavish decorations and sculpture work.
quarters were built under the British policy of ethnic
segregation (according to the Raffles Plan of Keep on walking down the street, passing by Masjid
Singapore), but had also been the first stop for other (mosque) Al Abrar: Originally built as a rather
migrants who arrived at the city, and their modest thatched hut in 1827, by South Indian Tamil
fingerprints can be seen there even today… Muslims, this small and hardly noticed mosque
reflects an Indian-Islamic style.
We will start our Chinatown day-trip from Raffles
Place MRT Station: Take exit-F to Cecil Street, turn Continue pass the mosque, turn right to Amoy Street
back as soon as you walk out of the station and walk and right again (still on Amoy). Right on the corner,
a few steps to the corner, where you turn right to there's a tiny Chinese temple, called Siang Cho
Robinson Road. After a few minutes' walk you will Keong Temple and next to it there is a pedestrian-
see the imposing cast-iron structure of Telok Ayer only pathway (with quite a few stairs...) that leads
Market on your right. through Ann Siang Hill Park to Club Street... Ignore it
and just continue walking along Amoy Street for a
Originally built in 1894 as a fish market, Telok Ayer few more minutes, till you reach the corner of Cross
Market currently houses one of the best Hawker Street, where Far East Square can be found (on the
centres around this side of Chinatown. The other side of Cross Street).
impressive Victorian structure was prefabbed in
Glasgow, Scotland, more than a century ago and Far East Square occupies a cluster of beautifully
shipped to Singapore in pieces, before being erected restored shophouses that has been converted to a
on site. small dining precinct, with some good restaurants
and eateries. The main draw here, however, is Fuk
The market is open daily, morning till late in the Tak Ch'i Museum: An old Chinese temple that was
evening (most hawkers do not open before 12 built back in 1824 and became a small museum,
noon) where you can see exhibits from Chinatown's early
days, including a nice 3-D model of early 19th
Walk out of the Market to Robinson Road, turn right century Chinatown
to Boon Tat Street and after two-three minutes' walk
you will reach the corner of Telok Ayer St. (the third Far East Square is open daily, morning till late
street on your left). The peaceful street runs along evening (The museum is open 10am – 10pm and
what was once the coastline and visiting it gives you entry is free)
an idea just how much reclamation did pushed the
sea away… As you leave Far East Square, cross Cross St., turn
right and after a few minutes left, to Club Street.
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Club Street and its quaint offshoots are lined with This impressive Tang-style building is where the relic
some of the most beautiful houses in Chinatown, of the tooth of Buddha is kept, in a gold stupa. Other
many of which have been restored and turned to than the holy remnant, there is a lavishly decorated
romantic restaurants and boutique hotels. Take temple here, and a Buddhist Culture Museum,
your time strolling through these lovely streets and where hundreds of beautiful Buddhist artifacts are
climb to Ann Siang Hill Park (via Ann Siang Road), on display.
from where you can view Chinatown's old heart.
Daily, 7am – 7pm (The holy chamber can be seen
From Club Street, turn right to tiny Ann Siang Hill, 9am – 12noon and 3 – 6pm), Free entry. Website
which will take you to the corner of South Bridge
Road, where you turn right again and arrive at Turn right to South Bridge Road as you walk out of
Eu Yan Sang Medical Hall. This interesting shop the temple and walk along it for a few minutes. On
specializes in Chinese herbal medicines which are your left hand side, across the street, is the entrance
prepared on spot, right before your eyes, and even if to Maxwell Road Food Court, where you can find
you don't feel like trying any of their 'exotic' some great food stalls, including one of Singapore's
products, it is still worth visiting. most popular chicken-rice joints…
The shop is on 267 South Bridge Road Right next to the food court is the modern building of
the Urban Redevelopment Authority (URA Centre),
As you leave the shop, cross South Bridge Road to where Singapore City Gallery is located. Here you
visit Sri Mariamman Temple, one of Singapore's can see one of the largest architectural models in the
earliest and most significant Hindu temples, which world, namely The Central Area Model, alongside
was built originally in 1827, as a simple wood and some other large models of various urban
palm structure, dedicated to Mariamman, the main developments
South Indian mother goddess and a protector from
diseases. The existing brick building started its life City Gallery is open from Monday - Saturday, 9am -
in 1843 and has since been expended and modified a 5pm (Website)
few times. You can then proceed to visit neighboring
Masjid Jamae Mosque, which was built in the 1820s The long and bright-red colonial building which once
and features an eclectic architectural style. housed Singapore's traffic Police Headquarters, just
across the street from Singapore City Gallery, is
The entrance to Pagoda Street is right next to the currently accommodating one of the world's only
Hindu temple. The narrow street, where Chinatown two "red dot design museums", where winners of
has started its life from almost 200 years ago, was the lucrative red dot design award display their
restored and the old houses where poor families of masterpieces… If product design is your thing, you
Chinese migrants had to cram in tiny flats are now will surely love it.
housing shops and cafés.
11am - 6 pm on Monday, Tuesday and Friday, and
One of these heritage buildings has become a 11am - 8pm on Saturday and Sunday (closed on
museum, where you can learn about day-to-day life Wednesday and Thursday). Website
in Chinatown and the hardships those newcomers
had to deal with.
Click HERE to view and download ALL
Chinatown Heritage Centre is open 9am - 8pm daily our Singapore online-guides, for FREE !
and there is an entry fee (website)
Take a pleasant stroll through Chinatown's historic
streets, including Trengganu, Temple Street and Walk back along Maxwell Road to the junction of Neil
Smith Street (on 335 Smith Street there is a fantastic Road and Tanjong Pagar Road, where the neo-
food centre, where you can have an "authentic" classical building of Jinrikisha Station stands.
lunch), before proceeding to Buddha Tooth Relic Noticeable for its red bricks, this beautiful colonial
Temple and Museum, on 288 South Bridge Road. building was inaugurated at 1904 and served as a
base for most of Singapore's rickshaw pullers.
Turn left to Tanjong Pagar Road and after a minute As you leave Nei Xue Tang Museum, turn left and
or two turn right, to Duxton Hill: The historic district walk for a few minutes along Cantonment Road, turn
of Tanjong Pagar, south of Chinatown, can be left to Hoe Chiang Road and continue walking along
described as "Singapore's Soho", with plenty of it, crossing Tanjong Pagar Road, then turn left to Tras
vivaciously painted shophouses, where lovely cafés Street and right to Gopeng Street and left again, to
and galleries can be found… Take a pleasant stroll Peck Seah Street… There, on the corner, you will see
through the area's quaint streets, like Duxton, Seng Wong Beo Temple: A small and colorful temple,
Duxton Hill, Craig and Neil Road and simply enjoy the dedicated to Cheng Huang, who is the city-guard in
ambience… Taoist tradition. This is one of the only places in
Singapore where "ghost marriages" are conducted:
Walk down Duxton Road to the end, turn right to According to Taoist belief, the spirits of the
Craig and immediately left to Yan Kit Road. At the unmarried (including children) cannot receive
end of Yan Kit, turn right to Cantonment Road and offerings made on family altars. In order to solve the
after a minute or two, on No. 235, you will see the problem, a "ghost marriage" has to be conducted,
historic building of Nei Xue Tang Museum, a where the departed living relatives try to find them a
privately owned museum that displays one of the match.
world's most impressive collections of Buddhist arts
and crafts, including hundreds of precious statues, A couple of minutes' walk from the temple, on the
figurines and other pieces of art from China, Tibet, corner of Peck Seah Street and Choon Guan, you will
Thailand, Cambodia and other Asian countries. see the entrance to Tanjong Pagar MRT Station,
where our day trip comes to its end.
10am - 5pm daily. Children below 8 years old are
not permitted (Website)
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Copyright © 2011 Asia-Pacific Guides Ltd. All rights reserved.