Be warned that you may find the Chinatown a big disappointment. In its eagerness to clean up the image of Chinatown in the 1970s, the government had made the street hawkers illegal and refurblished the old look of the historical buildings in the area. The once hustle and bustle Chinatown of the past has long gone and the area looks quiet and too squeaky clean to be called Chinatown which you see in other parts of the world. However Chinatown comes alive immediately after Christmas and climax just before Lunar New Year (usually end Jan or Early Feb) in preparation for the Chinese’s Lunar New Year celebration, where the streets are lined with street stores selling cookies, decorations and other wares. Visitors will immerse in a true festive mode which many tourists have enjoyed very much the experience of mingling with lots of local shoppers.
Here is a rare footage of 1955 Chinatown obtained from the government website in the year 2005:
Chinatown is roughly comprised of the main street Eu Tong Sen and the preserved buildings located along Mosque Street, Sago Lane,Smith Street and Temple Street. The Chinese name of Chinatown is known as Niu che shui (牛车水) literally translated as “bull-cart water,” due to the fact that Chinatown’s water supply was principally transported by animal-driven carts in the 19th century. Like the Chinatowns all over the world, the main speaking language in the early days are Cantonese but less so now in modern days though you still find many Cantonese old folks and stall holders speaking the language in this area.
The Buddha Tooth Relic Temple and the Sri Mariamman Temple are arguably the only two worthwhile attractions in Chinatown.
Sri Mariamman Hindu Temple
Located in Chinatown, the Sri Mariamman Temple is Singapore oldest and largest Hindu temple. Dating back to 1827, the brick bones of the present building were built around 1843. It is a National Monument of Singapore and a major tourist attraction. Entrance is free but there has been report that phototaking in the temple will set you back at S$3 and video taking at S$6.
Buddha Tooth Relic Temple And Museum
The building was completed in 2007 and is based on the Tang dynasty architectural style and built to house the tooth relic of the historical Buddha. The temple has a museum to showcase important Buddhist artifacts. Admission to the temple is free. Click here to access the official website.
How to get there?
Take the MRT to Chinatown Station. less than 5 minute walk to Sri Mariamman Temple (244 South Bridge Road Singapore 058793) as well as the Buddha Tooth Relic Temple (288 South Bridge Road Singapore 058840). Note: Marker A= Buddha Tooth Relic Temple, Marker I=Sri Mariamman Temple).
Last updated Jan 2010