Any country in the world would have a Chinatown. But the Singapore version of it is quite different. Studded with colonial Dutch shop houses, this tourist attraction also boasts a contemporary mix of pop culture and towering temples of the old. Large sections of it have been declared national heritage sites officially designated for conservation by the Urban Redevelopment Authority.
The Buddha Tooth Relic Temple looms over the skies as the newly constructed four-story temple welcomes visitors for free. Inside we found the overwhelming presence of the 27-foot statue of the Maitreya Buddha. Lots of faithfuls were there burning incense and offering flowers. There were also statuettes of different gods for sale and the proceeds would go to the maintenance of the temple. There were monks officiating a ceremony when we got there and their chanting really put us to trance. We explored the museum that is located at the fourth floor and we stumbled upon artifacts from different dynasties; and of course, the sacred relic of Buddha Shakyamuni’s teeth.
Speaking of temples, the oldest and most important Hindu temple in Singapore can be found in Chinatown: the Sri Mariamman Temple. We noticed how intricate the gopuram (statuary above the entrance) was. The place is active and worshipers almost never ran out. It is important to observe rules in entering the complex. Visitors must take off their shoes and be quiet to not disturb the people praying.
Another place to see is the People’s Park Complex, one of the most popular malls in the area. If you are looking for electronics, clothes, jewelry, Chinese medicines and massage parlors,this is the place.
As any Chinatown, the streets are strewn with stalls selling souvenirs and trinkets for a very cheap price. Key chains of Singapore in 5’s are sold for SGD$10 which we found out was the cheapest when compared to everywhere else. Of course, there are also shops that sell handicrafts and antiques quite expensively. Brushes made of jade and horse hair or name stamps made of jade would cost about SGD$50 to SGD$80. Fashion boutiques line the alleys with the latest trends and the place isn’t quite complete without the al fresco diners and bars encroaching half of the streets.