CHINATOWN CULTURE MIX – SINGAPORE STYLE!
In the tourist guide they mentioned that Chinatown is the place where you can find a mosque, Hindu temple and Chinese temple in one complex. Plus, they have a great night market place. Chinatown is very easily accessed by the MRT subway. The “guide” said that once you stepped off the MRT gate, you’ll see the market immediately. With 3 maps on my bag, I’m very confident there’s no way I’ll get lost. Well, I was wrong :D
I don’t know why I’m not good with maps. And we’re talking about user friendly maps. But somehow I still got lost. I couldn’t find the market, nor the temples. I only see wide roads as usual as any other place. After ask to several people, and using gut feel (not the map), I manage to land on Mosque street. Well the place looks like Chinatown (lots of building with Chinese writing in it). Click here click there by camera, and I found a mosque! As a muslim, I took a short prayer break and take pictures of the inside of girl’s only side (and this is rare, since you have to be a female muslim to enter this part of the mosque; but other areas you can). I also learnt that the Jamae (Chulia) mosque was build by the Indian community (not middle east) in the 1826! The entrance is South Indian style – but the prayer halls are Neo-Classical.
And then after like 10 steps, I saw another prayer site. It’s the Sri Mariamman Temple! This is the oldest Hindu worship place, built in 1827- paying tribute to mother goddess Devi and the rain goddess Mariamman. It’s very colorful and good for photography. Not sure what do they mean by having cows, and gods in stacks… Nor why does 2 banana trees guard the gate. Also don’t understand why there are a lot of small bells placed in the door (when I mean a lot, really a lot, like 50 bells in every door). Nevertheless it was a good site to visit. If you want to go in and bring a camera, you need to pay 3 SGD (which is why I did not go in he he :D).
From there I basically follow my gut feel (and also following the road where there are a lot of people going in and out) and I manage to find the night market! Well it was in the afternoon (about 4-5 pm) so the stalls are just opening up (the market is open on 3 pm – 11 pm). If you’re a shopping freak, this is the place to buy small gifts for the folks back home. It’s somewhat 20-30% cheaper than downtown. I was quite surprised that in Chinatown, there are a lot of things you don’t expect to find in Singapore – for example: Vietnamese Tintin decorative lacquer, light balls from Thailand, Indonesian snacks, Venetian mask and even German sausages! However, this is NOT the place if you’re seeking for luxury and branded stuff. Unless you’re trying to find the faux stuffs. They usually give words “Original”, “100%”, etc but at the end of the day – use your logic to compare with the price. Chinatown is also a nice place to hang out and enjoy “alfresco” dining under the stars. Most of the food stall or restaurants have outdoor seating area. However, most of the food here contains pork – so just be careful if you’re not into that. However, I can still nibble on some mochi (Japanese rice based snack) and mango sorbet (3 SGD each). Hmm delicioso!
I’m a “selective” shopper (in other words only get wild for certain limited things), I only bought couple of things that my family wants (shirts, key chains). But personally, I’m more interested to take pictures! The culture mix is not ending there, Chinatown is full of Victorian, neo classical style buildings. It looked very old. But they also keep it fresh by giving colorful colors. See the pictures by yourself!
At the corner of the Chinatown market, you can find a Chinese temple – Buddha Tooth Relic Temple and Museum. At first I thought this is an old building as well. Surprisingly, the building was only built in 2007! Almost 200 years younger than the previous mentioned mosque and Hindu temple. It’s still a striking panorama to see the traditional temple with the modern skyscraper buildings. In front of the temple, you’ll see lines of rickshaws and the peoples playing chess. It’s really breaks the assumption that Singapore life is hectic. They play like they have all the times on their hand!
At the end of the day, I really feel lucky that although I got lost, I still manage to find all of the key places I want to visit! Including the 4xxxx bar that I wasn’t expected ha ha ha (see picture!) To avoid my mistake, you need to ensure that you take the Pagoda exit in the MRT station – then you’ll immediately see the market. My mistake was simply because I took another gate (the Eu Tan something). As far as I found, most of the guide maps in Singapore did not specifically mentioned to get out at that gate.
- Take the Pagoda exit at the Chinatown MRT as mentioned above
- Bring small money (under 100 SGD). Most of the stores does not serve credit cards.
- Negotiate the price. They usually won’t lower it that much (only like 1-2 SGD).
- Use a good comfy shoes – it’s relatively long walk here
- Be careful with your bag, a friend of mine got his passport stolen here before. I personally use padlocks for my backpack.
- Be prepare to carry your trash. Surprisingly, there’s no garbage bin in Chinatown! And the stalls wouldn’t let you throw trash in theirs if it’s not purchased from them.