A glimpse of Chinatown

Prelude to the Chinese Lunar New Year that is just round the corner on 26th and 27th Jan 2009, Chinatown will see its usual hive of activities as stallholders display all the goodies that you need to usher in the Year of the Ox. Red is the colour of the day symbolising good fortune and prosperity. A few days back, I had the chance to take a stroll along the streets of Chinatown. Most visitors would have an idea how Chinatown looks like as the Chinese New Year draws nearer. Much has been written and documented about this enclave which was home to the chinese community. Instead of snapping photos of the usual festivities going on at Chinatown, I took this opportunity to capture a glimpse of Chinatown which may have gone unnoticed with a few nostalgic photos added.

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^ My preference is to board the NEL and alight at Chinatown station. From here, you can gain access to the various parts of Chinatown for your shopping or sight-seeing.

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^ One of the few cobblers that set up their stall in Chinatown. For a reasonable fee, he will get your worn out sole replaced or fix that broken heel. Street cobblers like the one above, are a dying trade today without anyone keen to take up this form of tradecraft.

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^ A street scene of Chinatown just before the Chinese Lunar New Year in 1965. (Photocredit: National Archives of Singapore, circa 1965)

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^ A complex for the people. On the ground floor of the complex is where the various eateries are located. First stop, to fill that hungry stomach.

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^ Whenever I visit People’s Park Complex, I will patronise Tian Jin Fong Kee who specialises in dumplings. It can be served steamed or fried but my tastebuds favour the fried over the steamed dumplings. The skin of the dumpling is fried to a crispy brown and the texture is thin enough for you to reach for the next piece. The fillings are tasty and a dip into the ginger and vinegar sauce will make your mouth water for more. Read more about the origin of Tian Jin Fong Kee in the link above.

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^ Another stall I would not miss is Ming Fa Fishball. Do a search in any food reviews and the name just pops up among the faves of fishball lovers.

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^ Besides fried dumplings and fishball noodles, some delicacies such as turtle soup are still being sold. However, gone are the days where reptile food such as pythons, monitor lizards and a host of other reptiles are sold openly along the streets of Chinatown seen in the photo above. (Photocredit: National Archives of Singapore, circa 1959)

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^ From the pedestrain overhead bridge at Chinatown, the God of Wealth holding a gold nugget greets you. May you be bless with everlasting prosperity and good fortune.

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^ Story-teller Tan Kian Cheong with his audience in Chinatown. (Photocredit: National Archives of Singapore, circa 1957). A joss-stick is lighted as the story-tellers begins. When the joss-stick reaches its end, the story-teller will pause while passing the bowl around for contributions from his audience. After the round of collection, a second joss-stick is lighted and he continues with the story.

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^ Though I could not find any story-tellers like the one in the photo above, I did find a man in chinese garb playing the two-string bowed musical instrument known as the er hu belting out chinese songs at a street corner.

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^ Here comes the trishaw brigade. A common mode of transport in the past. When it rains, a plastic canvass will be draped over the front sheltering the passenger from the raindrops. The trishaw rider would put on his raincoat while peddling furiously with all his might to bring you to your destination.

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^ Although it is no longer the mode of transport now, the trishaw can still be seen occasionally carrying tourists on a circuit tour of Singapore to the various historical sites and places of interests around town.

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^ An old woman, bent at the backbone seen in one of the back alleys of Chinatown quietly gathering unwanted cardboxes. Binding them together with raffia strings, she hope to fetch a few cents from the sale that will pay for her next meal. She showed resilience despite her age.

Chinatown, an old world charm which still exists today. The old buildings of yesteryear still stands after having been renovated and given a new coat of paint. Dating back to the days of our Chinese immigrant forefathers who came to Singapore to seek a better future, Chinatown was an enclave that possess the roots that links us from the past to the present and possibly in the future. Perhaps a walk down Chinatown will bring back fond memories you once had of this place.

May you and your loved ones be bless with fresh hopes and good health in the Year of the Ox. Wishing you a happy Chinese Lunar New Year.

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5 Responses to “A glimpse of Chinatown”

  1. dead_cockroch Says:

    Great writeup! Thanks for sharing! I missed the old Chinatown…

  2. The Singapore Daily » Blog Archive » Daily SG: 23 Jan 2009 Says:

    […] Life, the universe and everything – Yesterday….Today….Tomorrow: A glimpse of Chinatown […]

  3. The Singapore Daily » Blog Archive » Weekly Roundup: Week 04 Says:

    […] Life, the universe and everything – The Fire in my Life: A dish for your lunar New Year [Thanks Joel] – thegreatsze: Review: 2009 Honda City (Singapore Retail) – 1.5 LX Edition – Aussie Pete: Even Computer Nerds Get Tattooed – The boy who knew too much: Perez Hilton/Mario Lavandeira, blogger: the meaning of his success – The Enquirer: Overcoming the deafening silence – AngryAngMo: Singapores Real Zoo – MRTs Unexplored Species – Aussie Pete: Nudity Makes Top New Stories – Yesterday….Today….Tomorrow: A glimpse of Chinatown […]

  4. Mike Ireland Says:

    Looks like it was such a colourful place. Lovely article and pictures.

  5. ning Says:

    great story. 🙂 chinatown’s one of my fav places in singapore and it saddens me that it is getting more and more tourist-sy. i was at the chinatown in toronto and it’s not a thing like this!

    i will always remember the shophouse with painted flowers because it really stands out among the rest! it’s been there since i was in pri 3 – more than 10 years ago! 🙂

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