Singapore’s Chinatown is referred as the traditional Chinese digs in town. While the entire city is largely Chinese these days the area does retain some of its own charm. The area between Pagoda Street and Smith Street is mostly for tourists, but workaday Chinatown continues south and east, merging seamlessly into the Central Business District. The Tanjong Pagar is the unofficial home of Singapore’s gay community, with many watering holes in restored shop houses, while Club Street caters more to the expat and yuppie crowd with small, intimate eateries offering excellent Western fare.
In contrast to most of the majority of Hokkien Singapore, the dominant Chinese dialect in Chinatown is Cantonese. Its main attraction is the town itself composed as it is of restored shop houses full of strange little shops selling everything from plastic Buddhas to dried seahorses. Here you can see the famous Buddha Tooth Relic Temple at South Bridge Rd, and towers above southern Chinatown. This four-story temple was completed in 2007. The imposing main hall housed the 27-foot statue of Maitreya Buddha, and the sacred relic itself, reputedly one of Buddha Shakyamuni’s is at the 4th floor of the temple. On the roof is the 10,000 Buddhas Pagoda, which hosts a large Tibetan-style prayer wheel. The Chinatown Heritage Centre is at Pagoda St. It is an excellent museum that tells how Chinatown came to be and the hardship suffered by early migrants. The centre is on the left if you walk straight from the Pagoda St exit of Chinatown MRT station. One that is quite visited is the Pinnacle at Duxton Skybridge and is Singapore’s tallest public housing project. It has a 50th story viewing deck that offers some of the best city views around at a fraction of the cost of the Singapore Flyer. The former traffic police HQ, which is now a design center painted firehouse red with a museum devoted to contemporary design is the Red Dot Design Museum located at 28 Maxwell Road. You can also find the Coin and Notes Museum in Chinatown Singapore along with Sri Mariamman Temple, which is Singapore’s oldest and most important Hindu temple and worth a visit for the intricately carved gopuram statue above the entrance.
Chinatown is at its busiest and most festive in the month of January to February preceding the Chinese New Year. It is that time when the streets are decked with festive decorations. Street markets are thronged with people; shows entertain the crowds and the drums of lion dances echo into the night. The festivities in a midnight countdown and a roar of firecrackers atop People’s Park Complex, showering flaming confetti down below and for the two following days virtually everything is closed. They say it is a place to experience New Year – where it matters to almost everyone who follows its tradition.