With its vintage shophouses and rich cultural heritage, Chinatown is a sharp contrast to the rest of Singapore’s city life. It is an ethnic enclave in the heart of the country and features distinctly chinese elements, such as the bold red and gold tones on many of its low-rise buildings. On a relaxed walk around Chinatown, one can see traditional Chinese medicine halls selling sundried herbal concoctions, merchants displaying Chinese calligraphy paintings and little jade trinkets at their booths, and hawkers whipping up a variety of Chinese dishes.
Chinatown also bears testament to the diverse racial harmony and culture in Singapore with its significant cultural monuments. These include Sri Mariamman Temple, Thian Hock Keng Temple, Buddha Tooth Relic Temple and Al-Abrar Mosque. These ornate places of worship are amazingly well-preserved; the intricate detail, rich variety of colours and variety of carvings on their facade are truly a beauty to behold.
Located on Smith Street in Chinatown, Chinatown Food Street serves cheap, delicious and authentic local cuisines in Singapore. Chinatown Food Street has 24 street hawker stalls and 6 shophouse restaurants, under a glass-canopy shelter with a cooling system. It is also fully pedestrianised, with no vehicles allowed in. Here, you can find mouthwatering satay, fried carrot cake, or luak (fried eggs with oysters), hokkien mee, barbequed stingray and chicken wings.
Near Chinatown, you will find the quaint Keong Saik Road. What used to be a red-light district in the ’60s is now populated with trendy bistros, bars, cafes and restaurants serving cuisines from all over the world. There is Sluviche – a Peruvian resto, Taratata Brasserie serving traditional French cuisine, Potato Head Singapore offering classic burgers and fries paired with a cocktail and contemporary Australian restaurant Luxe, to name a few. Craving for some fine-dining options? Keong Saik Road definitely has you covered. Meta, a Michelin-starred resto, presents French cuisine with an Asian twist. It is truly interesting to see traditional cuisines juxtaposed against their more contemporary counterparts and Chinatown offers a beautiful balance between the two.
From its century-old temples to its street-style shops and hipster bistros, Chinatown is truly worthy to explore. Next time you visit, get yourself some little collectibles of heritage as you pass the merchants selling their wares along the streets. Remember to smile a little if you are haggling for the best price!